Scam artists are trying to steal laser printer toner by pretending to represent buyers such as the University of Saskatchewan.

At least two Saskatoon businesses say they have been targeted by scammers trying to place big toner orders.

Toner cartridges

Some businesses in Saskatoon are being targeted by scam artists trying to get free office supplies. (CBC)

Brian Hnatiw, who runs Ecol Laser Services, says he caught an order worth $20,000 just before it shipped.

The scammers corresponded by email, using letterhead stolen from the U of S website.

How it works

In a nutshell, the scam involves ordering a lot of product, not paying for it, and then selling it on the black market.

In the most recent case, the crooks were trying to get a large shipment of $350 colour toner cartridges sent to a Toronto address.

That was one of the big tip-offs for Hnatiw. Also fishy was the phone number provided — one that didn't match with other U of S numbers. And the email address the scammers used contained a domain, compared to the legitimate university domain, which is

Hnatiw says the order that hit his store got past two levels of staff before he became suspicious, double checked it and discovered it was fake.

He says if he'd sent the toner, he'd be out $20,000 — enough of a financial hit that he wouldn't be able to make next month's payroll.

Awareness for others

"The people that are doing this type of fraud should be convicted," he said. "And we should pursue them very seriously."

"We have a responsibility to do an awareness campaign, so business owners and staff of small business owners are aware of this type of activity that's going on," Hnatiw added.

Hnatiw and officials at the University of Saskatchewan have both reported the attempted fraud to police.

Both say they're concerned other small businesses may lose money in the scam.