Avoid Paper Pirates

June 8, 2007
Scam artists target unsuspecting employees.

Businesses lose millions of dollars annually to con artists through a host of different tricks and scams, according to the Better Business Bureau.

One scam targets the purchase of office goods, such photocopying paper, copying supplies and ball point pens. The supplier makes a pitch by telephone, fax or e-mail, or a salesperson may just show up on the premises. Usually the supplier tries to target an employee who is unfamiliar with purchasing procedures. A common approach is for the salesperson to claim "liquidation of stock" or "going out of business." The merchandise, if delivered at all, is often of inferior quality, greatly overpriced, or may come in twice the amount ordered.

While your purchasing department may be savvy to such con artists, non-purchasing employees are the target.

The Better Business Bureau offers this advice:

  • Advise employees who are not authorized to order supplies and services to refer any such sales people to the purchasing department.
  • The purchasing department should be instructed not to respond verbally to unsolicited phone offers for office supplies. Require that all sales offers be provided in writing.
  • Do not deal with unknown sellers without first verifying the reliability and complaint history of the seller's business with the BBB.
  • Institute strict purchasing and accounting controls. Every purchase should be documented by issuing a purchase order to the supplier with an authorized signature and a purchase order number. The handling of invoices should be centralized and authorization closely checked.
  • Keep a list of regularly used vendors. This will help to protect your business against schemers who claim that your company previously used their services.

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