Are you a victim of counterfeit toner?

April 28, 20163 Minute Read

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It’s a busy Monday morning, and your schedule is busting at the seams—just one glance at your loaded Google calendar would give even the most task-oriented over-achiever a panic attack. First there’s the weekly meeting you lead for your small-but-mighty team, then there’s a department-wide security briefing with the CISO, a conference call to onboard a new software vendor, and about a thousand tickets to handle. Ever since you were promoted to IT manager of a fast-growing startup, it’s been one fire after another. And today is no exception.

While scrolling through your email, you see one of your team members is asking for approval of an order for printer toner. “It’s discounted,” he says. “It’ll save the company several hundred dollars this quarter alone.” That’s all you need to hear. Without reading another word, you send back your approval. It’s just toner, after all, and there are way more important things for you to deal with today.

You return to your work, and your team member places the order. What you don’t realize is that your colleague just purchased counterfeit toner, and that’s a bigger issue than you might think.

Why is counterfeit toner a problem?

Counterfeit and pirated goods, including toner, were valued at an estimated $1.77 trillion globally in 2015, according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, but these fraudulent products are causing more concerns than simply contributing to global debt. Even if toner arrives in legitimate packaging and snaps flawlessly into place, there’s still a chance it could be fake—and it’s only a matter of time before your bogus toner wreaks havoc. Some issues you may encounter include:

  • Low quality print-outs

  • Reduced number of print jobs per cartridge

  • Failed cartridges

  • Printer damage

  • Wasted paper

  • Toner leakage

  • Downtime caused by printer interruption

  • Invalidation of equipment warranty

Because much of a printer’s technology and job quality depends on the toner, counterfeit toner can threaten the integrity of your investment. Reprints can add up, and if just one printer is damaged or destroyed by illegitimate toner, replacing the equipment could cost your company thousands of dollars. In other words, it’s not worth the risk.

How do I know if I’ve purchased counterfeit toner?

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine whether your toner is real or fake—especially because many counterfeited products are re-manufactured from legitimate cartridges or use real packaging. But there are a few telltale signs you may encounter:

  • Poor or inconsistent print quality
  • Packaging that appears damaged, used or low quality
  • Cartridges that are covered in toner residue such as dust or leaked ink
  • Cartridges that do not last long
  • Cartridges that do not print at all

How can I avoid becoming a victim of a counterfeit scam?

While fraudulent organizations are growing, brands are making an effort to protect consumers against counterfeit toner. For example, some manufacturers are including special labels on packages and cartridges to assure customers they’ve purchased a genuine product. Additionally, brands may include a scannable QR code that authenticates a cartridge. To further protect yourself, only purchase toner from certified distributors and avoid retailers you don’t recognize, or those that require cash-on-delivery.

Counterfeit toner may not seem like a major concern, especially for IT professionals focused on preventing security breaches and expensive data loss, but it can quickly become a nightmare. By taking the right precautions, understanding the signs, and educating your team, you can prevent this mistake and enjoy top quality printer performance.

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