Keep It To Yourself

Don't Buy It

Office-supply scams are still big business.

Small businesses are being bilked out of millions of dollars each year by bogus office-supply firms. To protect yourself, know your rights. You don't have to pay for supplies or services you didn't order, even if you use them. Assign designated buyers, keep a record of purchases, and always check documentation. Finally, train your staff to be aware of potential scams and to avoid becoming victims. The three most popular scams to look out for:

  • The phony invoice, which involves a bogus firm billing your business inflated prices for unordered merchandise.
  • The pretender, in which the scam artist pretends to be a supplier you use regularly or have used before.
  • The gift horse, where the scammer tricks an employee into accepting a gift, which is followed by unordered merchandise and an invoice showing the employee's name.

For more information on office-supply scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission at (202) FTC-HELP or visit the commission's Web site at

Contact Sources

Visions Design Group, (423) 282-2728,

Workforce Solutions Inc., (888) 974-7200,

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Keep It To Yourself.

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