Could your organization be a victim of an office supply scam? If you don’t have sufficient purchasing controls, it could already be happening to you. The Federal Trade Commission has put together some helpful tips on avoiding different office supply scams that could be happening to your business.
The Typical Office Supply Scam
The typical office supply scam involves supplies or services that you routinely order such as copier paper, toner and maintenance supplies, equipment maintenance contracts, or classified ads. When scamming telemarketers call, they often lie to get you to pay for items you didn’t order, or to get you to pay more than you agreed to.
How the Scam Works
The caller may falsely claim to be your “regular supplier” or to tell you that the offer is “special” or “good for a limited time only.” Con artists take advantage of holes in your organization’s purchasing procedures or of unsuspecting employees who may not be aware of office practices. What’s worse, the office supplies peddled by these bogus firms often are overpriced and of poor quality; the services usually are worthless.
Protect Your Organization
You can protect your organization from paying for unordered goods and services. Here’s how:
1. Know your rights. If you receive supplies or bills for services you didn’t order, don’t pay, and don’t return the unordered merchandise. You may treat unordered merchandise as a gift. By law, it’s illegal for a seller to send you bills or dunning notices for unordered merchandise, or ask you to return it — even if the seller offers to pay for shipping.
2. Assign designated buyers and document your purchases. For each order, the designated employee should issue a purchase order — electronic or written — to the supplier with an authorized signature and a purchase order number. The order form should instruct the supplier to note the purchase order number on the invoice and bill of lading.
3. Check your documentation before paying bills. When merchandise arrives, the receiving employee should verify that it matches the shipper’s bill of lading — paying special attention to brands and quantity — and your purchase order. Refuse merchandise that doesn’t. If everything’s in order, the employee should send a copy of the bill of lading to your accounts payable department. Bills for services should be reconciled the same way. A supplier should not be paid unless the invoice has the correct purchase order number and the information on the invoice, the purchase order and the bill of lading match.
Buy from people you know and trust, such as North Country Business Products. Authorized employees should be skeptical of “cold” or unsolicited calls and feel comfortable saying “no” to high pressure sales tactics. Legitimate companies liked North Country Business Products won’t pressure you to make a snap decision. Finally, consider asking new suppliers to send a catalog first or information first.
For more information on the topic visit The Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov.