Telephone fraud may get you at the office if it misses you at home. People who know better than to buy diamonds or London commodity options over the phone may let their guard down when offered a business deal at a bargain price.

The telephone jockey's motto is a classic: "Never give a sucker an even break and never smarten up a business people with phony "long-life' lightbulbs (to solve your energy problems); useless office supplies (like copier paper that won't go through down payment, then wait forever for delivery); and industrial chemicals (adulterated).

A good example of this business comes from the files of New York City's Better Business Bureau. One comapny in particular, using 17 aliases, is a tribute to the virtuosity of its salesmen.

According to BBB, the firm drops names of prominent customers and suppliers, (none of who they really do bargain prices on office furniture to "forced liquidation;" ships and bills for low-quality unordered merchandise, which may be accepted without question by a disorganized, or dishonest, purchasing officer.

Some con men practice "grave robbing." They buy a declining company while its credit is still good, place large orders for goods with its traditional suppliers, spirit the goods away (while appearing to sell them at distress prices), then let the company go bankrupt with the bills unpaid.

A few months later, those same goods, at cut prices, will be offered to other companies - perhaps by a worried young lady, who says she needs a quick sale in order to carry on her late, beloved father's business.

Another hustle gets its muscle from the anti-discrimination laws. A salesman may suggest that your company take an ad in his special-interest publication - for example, a newspaper with "Negro' in the title, which is planning a Jobs for Thousands edition. Even simpler, he may call to "confirm" that you want to run "the same ad you ran last year." (There was, of course, no ad last year.) If you have a trusting heart and send money, the saleman puts it in his pocket. If you say no, he may threaten you with trouble for "failing to make minority hiring efforts." Fraudsters also extort conscience money for phony feminist for Jewish causes.

Several companies work the law-and-order angle. Creating organizations with "police' or "firemen' in their names, they solicit ads for nonexistent publications; supports for crime-law lobbying efforts (which are never made); contributions to national conventions (no conventions are ever called) or funds for research (the only research being into the telephone numbers of yet more marks).

A ruse with international flavor calls for "updating your listing" in business directories supposedly published and distributed abroad. Telex and foreign trade directories seem to be the most popular. You probably never had a listing in these books - but by calling for an "update," the bill may slip through without further checking.

This jail-bird watchers guide could go on.There's the "annual-report forwarder,' who sells listings in a directory that supposedly goes to Wall Street analysts.The "servicing company," that inspects "two office machines for the price of one," takes one off to bepaired, and then never returns it. Mr. Dooley said it all: "A lie with a purpose is wan iv th' worst kind an' th' most profitable.