The Scam “Toner Phoners” Reach The Y-K Delta

Bethel may be 400 miles off the road system, but it’s no stranger to fraud. Most recently, there have been office supply scams. Bethel Native Corporation was approached last week with a Xerox scam, but President Ana Hoffman suspected something was amiss.

“I received a phone call from a guy named Jack Miller,” Hoffman said. “He said he was with Xerox and he asked me if I was the purchasing agent for the company, and he said that the price of the toner had gone up but he was going to honor the former price. And a guy from Xerox Capital Support Services was going to call me to give me the invoice information.”

And that’s exactly what happened. About 20 minutes later, Hoffman received another call from a different person. He asked her if she spoke with Jack Miller and told her he had an invoice for her. He asked for her e-mail address.

“And it seemed very suspicious but I gave him my e-mail because I wanted to see what this was all about,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman received an invoice. And by all accounts, it looked pretty legitimate. Still, she decided to do a little research to try to find out just who this company really was. She couldn’t find a Capital Support Services that dealt with office supplies anywhere on-line. So, Hoffman called BNC’s Xerox representative in Anchorage, who told her it was a scam and that other Y-K Delta businesses have been hit. Some offices paid the bill and others didn’t.

The Anchorage Xerox company didn’t return calls to KYUK, but if you google Xerox scams, you will find that they are a national fraud. There’s actually a name for them, “toner phoners”.

The Alaska Department of Law deals with consumer fraud. Cindy Drinkwater, Assistant Attorney General, says office supply scams have been around for a long time.

“It’s important for businesses, especially small business and non-profit agencies to understand that they are the targets of this kind of scam,” Drinkwater said. “And it would be a really good idea to talk about how to deal with this and to have procedures in place so that there’s maybe one person who has the authorization to make office supply purchases and that they use a purchase order procedure.”

Drinkwater says sometimes the scammers can be aggressive going after payment, but consumers should not give in.

“They also should not pay, even though they might get a lot of pressure to pay,” said Drinkwater. “The scammers might say that they’re going to send them to collections or take them to court but if the item was not properly authorized for purchase, they shouldn’t pay, and to file a complaint, and not fall prey to possible bullying by the scammers.”

You can find a lot of information about scams and fraud at the Department of Law’s website. You can also file fraud complaints there.

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