Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check your lease payments

A recent case in North Carolina might make you want to recheck your equipment leases. According to the story reported by WRAL, a Raleigh TV station, a local copier dealer has been arrested for using fake copier leases to defraud its clients.

The fraud came out when one customer (a restaurant franchisee) found that it was being billed for a lease on a copier it did not own. Subsequent investigation has turned up at least two more victims of the ploy, and there may be more than a dozen. As the head of the defrauded company said, “"We had not heard of any lease. Our owner's signature and my signature had been put on this document, (and they were) not our signatures.” The police have been tracking down stored (unused) copiers and forged documents.

We doubt that this kind of fraud is common, but it’s not hard to see how it works. The parts of most companies that handle the bills are rarely in close communication with the department that manages office equipment like printers and copiers. In addition, leasing agreements are often so complicated that they get less careful scrutiny than other expenditures. Few end user companies have even a centralized list of what they own and what they lease.

So this might be a good time to do an equipment inventory, re-check your leases, and evaluate exactly how much you are paying for printing and copying. You probably won’t find out-and-out fraud, but you may find confusion, underuse, and a reason to work with the dealer to renegotiate.

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