Recognizing and Avoiding Phone Scams

Recognizing and Avoiding Phone Scams

Recognizing and Avoiding Phone Scams

We may have entered the digital age, but the telephone remains scammers’ weapon of choice. Once they get you on the line, phone scammers use false promises, aggressive sales pitches and phony threats to pry loose information they can use to steal your money or identity (or both).


Scammers can pressure office workers into “ordering” substandard, overpriced office supplies. This type of phone scam has been tried, at least, since the late 1970s. Learn how to recognize these scams and how to protect yourself from them.

What Happens

Typically a masked call (the caller ID is blocked) claiming to be with your facility’s IT will try to reach any department. The scammer “IT” person will then explain that a support ticket was opened for a printer in your department and that they need the printer's make and model number.

The scammer “IT” person wants to obtain the printer's make and model number so that they can ship cheap ink and copy paper along with an invoice for a large amount to your facility. The hope is that the invoice will be paid due to apathy or paperwork shuffle. Other scams will try to use common office products, such as:

  • Light bulbs

  • Urinal deodorants

  • Cleaning solutions

  • Ink ribbons

  • Rubber gloves

How to Avoid

Always challenge someone's credentials. If a caller is giving generic information, ask them to be very specific. Ask who they work for, what are they specifically looking for, etc. If they refuse or become cagey, you should become suspicious and terminate the call.

Do not give up specific, potentially sensitive, information. E.g., if a caller you do not recognize says they cannot remember the manager's name of so-and-so, do not volunteer the manager's name. This can be a tactic used to gather information that the caller does not know.

Reach out if you are unsure. If a call seems suspicious or you're not certain of its validity, transfer the call to your department manager or IT.

Do not pay for supplies that you did not order. According to the FTC, merchandise that was not ordered is allowed to be treated as a gift. You are under no obligation to return the merchandise. If the scammer is caught, they can face civil penalties up to $41,484 per violation.