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House Toner Scams: Knowing Is Half the Battle

Hey, buddy, want to buy some cheap toner? Not so fast, the House inspector general says.

According to a memo sent to the congressional community from Inspector General Theresa Grafenstine, lawmakers are being targeted with increasing frequency by scammers who claim to sell toner at discounted prices — that are actually as much as 10 times the market rate.

“It is an unfortunate reality that toner vendors will attempt to take advantage of individuals who may be unaware of the existence of this scam,” Grafenstine reflected.

These perpetrators, she continued, tend to prey on the weak and vulnerable during congressional transition season, when employees of new members swoon at the promise of saving their boss a couple of bucks on printer materials. They also lurk in the shadows during the August recess, when staffers with street smarts are on vacation and innocent interns are left to man the decks.

But never fear — the inspector general, the general counsel and the chief administrative officer are all here to help House offices avoid becoming victims of fraud and general humiliation.

They even put together a list of frequently asked questions with answers to help guide staffers through the sticky terrain of toner trickery. What if you receive toner your office never ordered? Tell the vendor to take that toner back! And if the vendor refuses?

“Notify them you are not paying for the toner and that while House ethics rules do not allow you to keep it, you can donate it to a school or eligible approved charitable organization.”

What if the toner vendor “continues to harass [your] office and threatens to send [your] debt to a credit bureau or contact the media” in the absence of payment? You need to call the general counsel’s office immediately.

There are also mechanisms in place to keep staffers from doing anything reckless, according to the FAQ: “As an added control, Financial Counseling will not process invoices for toner where the price exceeds $150 per cartridge without first checking back with your office to confirm the purchase.”

Toner scammers, your days are numbered.

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