Anatomy Of A Toner Scam

Effluvia

I had a deposition scheduled today, but the witness didn't show up. I was left annoyed and in an inquisitorial mood.

Then our HR manager wandered into my office and showed us an invoice for toner for more than $1500 from Network Office Products of Costa Mesa, California, down below the Orange Curtain.

This struck me as odd, because (1) we get free toner as part of our copier deal, (2) we've carefully instructed receptionists not to give out information about our copiers or printers to avoid the toner scam, and (3) inspection revealed that we never received the toner reflected in the invoice.

Time to use some of that inquisitorial mood. FOR GREAT JUSTICE!

1. A search on whocallsme.com revealed multiple reports of toner fraud from the same company, revealing the same phone number (877-689-5659 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-689-5659      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-689-5659      end_of_the_skype_highlighting) and same address.

2. 800notes.com revealed a similar report.

3. The Better Business Bureau of the Southland has a handy search function. It revealed two iterations of Network Office Products, one in Irvine and one in Costa Mesa. Both have "F" ratings and a history of complaints typical of toner scam operations. Both list a "Tom Miller" as a customer service manager — I suspect that's a pseudonym. They use different post office boxes in the two cities, but the same number for customer service — it goes straight to a recording. Both use fax number 949-715-1531, which according to several reverse directories is a land line in Laguna Beach, CA.

4. A search with the California Secretary of State reveals no LLC or corporation called "Network Office Products."

5. However, a search of Orange County records shows a Fictitious Business Name Statement in the name of "Network Office Products" was filed in June 2009 by "Mark Mushkin." That matches when the complaints began to hit the Better Business Bureau.

6. You have no IDEA how much I could find out about Mark Mushkin on Westlaw if I wanted to pay for that. You'd shit yourself, believe me. For now, several online people finders report a Mark Mushkin in Costa Mesa. They also report he has ties to Newport Beach, CA. I'm toying with spending the $7.95 to find out all of Mark Mushkin's phone numbers, addresses, and other data.

7. Meanwhile, I've reported everything I found to the Better Business Bureau of the Southland, the Orange County District Attorney's Office, the FTC's consumer fraud report system, and the Postal Inspectors.

8. If I were in the mood, at this point it would be ridiculously easy to file a lawsuit down the street against Mark Mushkin dba "Network Office Products" aka Tom Miller. Maybe a class action, on behalf of all fraud victims? Maybe a unfair business practices suit under California's notorious section 17200? I could put it together in an hour, tops. Then I could start hitting the business with deposition notices and document demands and interrogatories, and could hit the business' internet and phone service providers with subpoenas for payment records to find their banks, and then hit their banks with subpoenas to get account information.

I think I'm done playing for today. I need to get a few things done, then we're taking Evan to dinner to celebrate his family day at a decent Korean place.

But if I get another invoice from Network Office Products, or a call . . . .

Edit: I had some down time, so I just called and left a message asking to speak to Mark Mushkin.

Edited again: "Mark Mushkin", if he exists, should not be confused with Julian Marc Muskin of Florida, who appears in the comments.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Al  •  Aug 26, 2010 @2:19 pm

    My wife always says I should never honk my horn because you never know who's driving or what kind of mood they're in.

  2. DMG  •  Aug 26, 2010 @2:27 pm

    We just had a warning go out about these guys…exact same scenario. They've been calling random departments here trying to get info.

  3. tim  •  Aug 26, 2010 @2:29 pm

    I am surprised they sent an invoice. Typically the toner scam plays itself out as someone calling asking for the secretary or administrative assistant and demanding payment. Most secretary/admins have purchase cards that can they can charge smaller amounts to (<$1000) and many pay up thinking the company forgot to pay a bill. The toner scam goes back at least a decade.

  4. Professor Coldheart  •  Aug 26, 2010 @2:52 pm

    Does your office not have an "Esq." in the title? Is it not immediately obvious that you're a lawyer just by looking at your business listing? Or does Mark Mushkin have giant brass ones clanking between his legs?

  5. D  •  Aug 26, 2010 @3:11 pm

    do it, do it, do it!!!!

  6. LabRat  •  Aug 26, 2010 @4:12 pm

    FINISH HIM. /Mortal Kombat

  7. Stingray  •  Aug 26, 2010 @4:24 pm

    I think the phrase "internet legend" would come into play if/when you listen to the wise and lovely LabRat above me and FINISH HIM!

  8. Ken  •  Aug 26, 2010 @4:25 pm

    We'll see.

    I was actually thinking of feeding him to 4chan.

  9. Mike  •  Aug 26, 2010 @4:50 pm

    Do that AFTER you sue his ass.

  10. LabRat  •  Aug 26, 2010 @4:59 pm

    I think feeding him to 4chan falls under "finish him". The legal system would be willing to let it go, if /b takes an interest they never, ever will.

  11. Old Geezer  •  Aug 26, 2010 @5:20 pm

    "Edit: I had some down time, so I just called and left a message asking to speak to Mark Mushkin." He did return call didn't he?

  12. SPQR  •  Aug 26, 2010 @6:01 pm

    Well, I would say "do it" but you'll end up with a worthless judgment. I'd say keep on the DA and the postal inspectors just in the odd chance that you hit one of them willing to do their job.

  13. David  •  Aug 26, 2010 @6:33 pm

    @Professor Coldheart

    I've seen his business card and letterhead. He uses neither "Esq." nor "Attorney". Instead, they just say

    Ken Lastname. Fear me.

  14. Imaginary Lawyer  •  Aug 26, 2010 @6:34 pm

    What LabRat said.

    Is this the kind of thing 4chan really cares about though?

  15. Chris Berez  •  Aug 26, 2010 @6:50 pm

    Do it, Ken. Do it. This tool completely deserves to be destroyed. In fact I say you should go ahead and throw everything against this guy AND feed him to 4Chan. I got a call at work from one of these scumbags once– might have even been the same scumbag, who knows?

    My vote is UTTER DESTRUCTION– NO MERCY!

  16. John  •  Aug 27, 2010 @6:55 am

    If the toad has been scamming people, it might indeed be worth going after his cash and other assets. Granted, it's dirty money, but isn't it all?

  17. Petey  •  Aug 27, 2010 @12:45 pm

    4chan is not your personal army.

  18. Ken  •  Aug 27, 2010 @12:47 pm

    Of course not. I would merely be a tipster.

  19. Petey  •  Aug 27, 2010 @1:02 pm

    It would probably come back at you, anyway, no matter how anonymous you try to be. Using 4chan is like convincing a werewolf to get rid of your haunted lawn gnomes. Sure, the gnomes are gone, but now you've got a werewolf sniffing for your scent on the breeze. And that wolf is wearing hooker boots and armed with a blunderbuss.

  20. Ken  •  Aug 27, 2010 @1:04 pm

    That's exactly why I'd bring in the zombie gorillas. To get rid of the werewolf. What could go wrong.
    [Then I think the zombie gorillas die of the cold or something.]

  21. Imaginary Lawyer  •  Aug 27, 2010 @3:04 pm

    Petey's description of the werewolf is vaguely intriguing.

  22. SPQR  •  Aug 27, 2010 @9:41 pm

    I was good with Petey until the last sentence …

  23. Roger Baker  •  Aug 30, 2010 @10:23 am

    Might this not be a little "fall project" for the new Associate?

  24. Fred Z  •  Sep 4, 2010 @8:42 am

    Whatever makes you think Mushkin is his real name?

  25. Marc Mushkin  •  Dec 20, 2010 @8:33 pm

    Hi. My name is actually Marc (with a "c") Mushkin. I lived for 30 years in Orange County, including several years in Newport Beach. I now live in Florida. Anyway … I have absolutely no idea who the "Mark Mushkin" is that you are looking for, or even if he, or she, actually exists and is simply using a variation on my name, but it's scary to think people out there are looking for someone with my name (or something so close) in a place where I used to live. Please let me know if you ever get any satisfaction. I'd love to see whoever is doing this arrested or otherwise stopped. You can imagine how frustrating it is having a relatively unusual name and finding out there is a criminal out there (coincidentally – or deliberately? – located where I lived for so long) using my name.
    Good luck with it. Wish I could help.
    Marc Mushkin

  26. Marc Mushkin  •  Dec 20, 2010 @8:37 pm

    Oh, and by the way, I moved from Irvine to Florida back in February of 2008, well before when this joker registered his or her so-called company with the local authorities. That makes me think he may even have known I left the county after three decades living there, meaning I wouldn't be around to clean up the mess.

  27. Ruth  •  Sep 10, 2011 @6:41 am

    Marc, I can understand, try it when your last name is Smith (which it technically isn't any more, but that doesn't always mean much legally). I used my middle name on EVERYTHING, and they still manged to misfile paperwork, pull up wrong records…..