Oregon Department of Justice

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

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Attorney General Puts California 'Toner Phoner' Permanently Out-of-Business in Oregon

December 3, 2001

Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that an unregistered California telemarketer is permanently out-of-business in Oregon after targeting businesses with fraudulent claims of previous sales in order to pitch office supplies. Named in an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed today in Marion County Circuit Court is RSL, Inc. of Costa Mesa, California that did business in Oregon as Precision Imaging Center and its vice president Richard Santo of Fountain Valley, California.

"Oregon's smaller businesses, non-profits and government are especially vulnerable to these telephone tricksters," Myers said. "Many budgets have been ruined by these types of telemarketers coercing and threatening workers to pay unwanted office supply orders."

Department of Justice investigators, acting on a complaint of a suspicious telemarketing pitch to the Marion Polk Medical Society, found that Precision Imaging Center employees were calling Oregon businesses and non-profits organizations claiming to be their "regular office supply company" in order to get an authorization on orders. Unknowing staff would okay orders that when received were from an unknown company with much higher prices and oftentimes lesser quality.

Under the agreement that admits no law violation, the company must provide refunds to customers that request them and not do business in Oregon.

Nicknamed "toner phoners," companies that fraudulently push office supply orders over the phone use many different ploys but the most common tactics include:

  • Always trying to talk with an employee unfamiliar with purchasing procedures often before or after regular work hours or during the lunch hour.
  • Misleading employees by announcing themselves as "new" or an "authorized" dealer. Often they falsely claim they are taking an office equipment survey to gain information about the operation.
  • Pressuring an employee to okay an order by using terms such as bargain prices but today only, prices go up tomorrow, going-out-of-business sale, overstocked warehouse and limited supply of government surplus.
  • Promising free gifts such as a television for the break room or a gift to be delivered directly to the employee's home if an order is immediately placed. Oftentimes, the gifts never arrive or are worth much less than promised.
  • "Toner phoners" misrepresent the merchandise by fraudulently describing the amount, quality, type, size, price and brand.

Attorney General Myers cautions businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies to protect themselves when ordering goods over the telephone by doing the following:

  • Designate one or two persons to order all supplies and receive deliveries.
  • Always ask for local references and check them out before buying.
  • Use authorized purchasing agents for ordering, receiving and paying for supplies.
  • Use written purchase orders whenever possible.
  • Inform all employees about the systems used by the business for purchasing, receiving and paying.
  • Never accept, open or pay for supply shipments without being sure of authorization by the designated person on staff.
  • If an unauthorized shipment arrives, refuse to accept it and send it back to the sender through the shipping company.
  • If a staff person has unknowingly accepted the merchandise, the designated office supply person should write the company, asking for proof of order and send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested. If the company can not show proof of the order, tell the supply company to pick up the merchandise within 30 days or it will be disposed of.
  • If the business, non-profit or government agency returns the goods, make sure its at the sender's expense.

For more information on telephone office supply scams call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. The Department of Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.


Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) jan.margosian@doj.state.or.us |
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