Schemes, Scams and Unethical Practices
University of Maryland departments are often targets of unscrupulous companies or individuals who canvass phone numbers and monitor companies' Internet buying practices. They hope to find victims who will unwittingly acknowledge their attempts to sell bogus, damaged, or discontinued products at exorbitant prices. The most common commodities are advertising, copier toner, printer cartridges, and chemicals (typically cleaning chemicals). We’ve titled these "supplier scams". Following are some guidelines to protect you from being scammed, ways to identify a scam, commonly used sales pitches, what to do if you suspect a scam, and links to Better Business Bureau and other informative websites.
Guidelines to protect you from being scammed:
Ways to identify a scam:
If a telephone or e-mail solicitor contacts you offering a "special sale," it could be a supplier scam. If an unknown solicitor calls to ask for your shipping address, it could be a supplier scam. If you receive goods that were not ordered, it could be a supplier scam.
If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Suppliers involved in scams assume that you don't compare prices or check your invoices. In a recent incident, a scam supplier attempted to sell a department copier toner valued at $25 for over $600 with shipping and handling costs. Don't fall for unreasonable discounts, as there are usually hidden costs. In addition, know that the majority of our copier maintenance agreements include the cost of toner. Contact the Department of Procurement & Supply at (301) 405-583 if you are unsure if toner is included in your contract. Here are some typical techniques used in telephone scams:
Commonly used sales pitches of scammers:
“We need your address so we can ship the items you ordered.”
"We're raising prices and have several cartons at the old price."
"We're selling discontinued items at close-out prices."
"We have free items or gifts for ordering."
"You must order today to take advantage of the price."
"The University President referred me to you."
"The price increase has just been announced but if you order now, you can avoid it."
"Our company’s anniversary gift to our customers is ready to ship to you. What is your size, or what color do you want?"
What to do if you suspect a scam:
If you identify a supplier scam, immediately contact Marty Newman, Manager of Delegated Purchasing at (301) 405-5834 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to Better Business Bureau Articles:
Phony Invoice Schemes http://www.bbb.org/library/ba-inv.asp
Office Supply Schemes & Paper Pirates http://www.bbb.org/library/ossapp.asp
Schemes Against Business http://www.bbb.org/library/ba-scheme.asp
Other interesting web sites:
National Fraud Information Center http://www.fraud.org/
Scams Against Businesses:
Consumer Protection http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm