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Better Business Bureau: 'Phoner Toner' scam artists are at it, again

April 2, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 1, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.


By Alan Bligh

Victoria-area businesses should be alert that an old office supply scam - the "phoner toner" scam - has resurfaced in recent weeks.

The "phoner toner" scam artist calls businesses randomly hoping to find a new or temporary employee who will freely provide information. The scam artist asks the employee to provide the make and model number of the nearest office printer.

Often after that call, toner or paper is delivered to the business address. The delivered goods usually are not of high quality nor are they name brand supplies.

Then, the scam artist sends a fraudulent billing invoice - hoping that the business' accounting department will simply pay the bill.

Businesses that receive bills for goods or services that they did not order are not obligated to pay. According to the Texas Attorney General, a business may consider it a gift.

The way to protect your business from this scam is to make sure your employees know not to give out private information.

ENTERTAINMENT MEMORABILIA

In the hours following the death of Elizabeth Taylor, entrepreneurs undoubtedly began looking at ways to honor - and profit from - the passing of another iconic entertainment legend. The Better Business Bureau warns that most memorabilia and commemorative items produced and sold in the wake of Taylor's passing will decrease in value in the years to come.

The death of a famous sports or entertainment figure often creates an immediate demand for items associated with that person. And, while some artifacts may indeed see an increase in value over the years, most will not. Things like commemorative plates, coins and figurines manufactured to mark Taylor's death likely will sell years from now for pennies on the dollar.

The online auction site eBay listed nearly 10,000 Elizabeth Taylor-related items shortly after her death, including the domain name RememberingElizabethTaylor.com, priced at $15,000; a 1955 handwritten letter, signed by Taylor, $7,500; a one-sheet movie poster from "Butterfield 8," $1,295; and a 1952 Dixie ice cream lid with the star's photo, $249.

MYSTERY SHOPPING SCAMS

A recent call to our office indicated to me that the message about mystery shopping scams has not reached the masses. Mystery shopping itself is a legitimate activity that employs lots of folks. But, there are many schemers out there who are offering phony jobs as mystery shoppers.

They have different names but basically they all operate the same way. They send the victim a check to cash, usually in the $900 to $3,000 range. The victim is instructed to cash the check and then go to Walmart, or other place that wires money. The victim is to wire the money to a person, usually overseas. Of course, the check the victim received is no-good and the victim will shortly be contacted by their bank, who will be wanting their money back.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpus christi.bbb.org.

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