Keyboard snapshot shown with a red button labeled 'Scam'

Scam and Fraud Alerts

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Notice to Suppliers:  Fraudulent Purchase Order Email Activity

We want to alert you to an active email scam involving purchase orders and request for product quotations that purport to originate from The Pennsylvania State University, but are, in fact, fraudulent. While the university cannot prevent this illegal activity, we have alerted law enforcement.  

We can share some common traits or themes of these fraudulent emails that may help reduce risk to your company in becoming a financial victim of this scam:

  • The email message is poorly written, with misspellings and awkward sentence structure.
  • The senders' email address or website link are not authentic to The Pennsylvania State University.
  • The message requests shipment of product to non-PSU addresses.
  • The message may include an attachment that is designed to look like a purchase order, may include a logo or other graphic, and a signature that may look legitimate.

If you believe that you have received a fraudulent email that appears to be from The Pennsylvania State University, you may forward it, via email, to Sara Hoover, Purchasing, to verify its legitimacy before responding to the email or filling the order. You may also contact Sara by phone, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., at 814-865-1477.  

If you have received confirmation that the email is fraudulent, you may also file a complaint directly with the IC3 (The Internet Crime Complaint Center). The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and NW3C (National White Collar Crime Center).

Purchasing and The Pennsylvania State University value our partnership with you and appreciate the very important role you play in providing goods and services to our faculty, students, and staff in support of their academic and research endeavors. Please know that we are assisting to the fullest extent we are able by reporting all fraudulent emails to the appropriate personnel.

Notice to Employees:  Toner Phoner Scam

As a reminder, the "toner phoner" scam usually involves a series of phone calls.  In the first set, the caller hopes to find a new employee, temporary employee, or a person who will freely give information. Posing as the University's supplier or perhaps as a survey taker, the caller asks the employee to read the make and model number off of the nearest printer or copier.

On another call, again posing as a supplier, the caller contacts the same University department. If it is the same employee, he or she may be reminded of the earlier conversation. The employee hears about a tempting offer on toner cartridges that just happens to fit his or her printer or copier. The caller may say there is a limited supply, or a limited time, so the employee is pressured to agree to have a case or two sent out. Once the toner is shipped, the University is overcharged for the product. The University may even receive invoices for products they never ordered or even received.

As a general rule, do not purchase supplies from unknown suppliers that contact you via phone. If they are a legitimate supplier, they will not pressure you into making decisions on the spot during a phone call. As a reminder, please do not provide any information, including your Purchasing Card information, to any unknown callers or emails. If there is a problem regarding your Purchasing Card, you will be notified by Purchasing Services.