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Watch out for phony health inspectors

Posted November 15, 2010 7:08 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2010 7:16 a.m. EST

Restaurant workers and operators need to watch out for a scam involving PHONY health inspectors!

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources says restaurants here in North Carolina and across the country report people claiming to be health inspectors called to tell them about a new inspection procedure and to schedule an inspection appointment.

Ultimately-- the scammers get the restaurants to set up a phony online account that is then used in other fraud schemes. NCDENR points out that inspectors would never call a restaurant in advance to set up an inspection appointment!

Read more here:

State officials warn food service establishments of phony health inspector scam

RALEIGH – The N.C. Division of Environmental Health is warning restaurant owners to be careful of a scam targeting food service establishments.

State officials say restaurateurs have reported receiving calls from people claiming to be health inspectors or other government officials who tell the business owners of a new inspection procedure.

The phony “government official” provides a numeric code and instructs the restaurant operator to provide this confirmation code when prompted during an automated call or give the code to a health inspector who is scheduled to visit the restaurant. The caller then says that the health inspector will visit the food service establishment the next day between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., or a similar time-frame.

Larry Michael, head of the division’s Food Protection Branch, said the division has learned that other states have been targeted by similar scams. These scams have involved setting up “verified” accounts with a national online auction service. The purpose of the code is to get the restaurant to provide false verification to the online auction service which establishes a bogus online account to be used in other fraud schemes.

Food Service establishments and other business owners need to be aware of this scam and should protect themselves by understanding:

  • Never provide personal or business information by phone unless you are certain of the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Environmental health specialists do not contact establishments in advance to schedule a routine inspection.
  • A new inspection procedure has not been developed and any “government official” who asks you to provide a given code through an automated call system or to an inspector is part of a fraud scheme.
  • Ask for proper photo identification if you do not recognize any inspector.

“I urge owners and operators to contact their local health department or the division of environmental health if there is any doubt about the identity of a person who claims to be a health inspector,” Michael says.

There have been no reports of phony inspectors arriving at any establishment targeted by the scam in North Carolina. However, owners and operators should immediately contact local law enforcement if they suspect they are being targeted by a scam.

Questions about the identity of any environmental health specialist authorized to inspect in North Carolina should be directed to the N.C. Division of Environmental Health at (919) 733-2884. 

About this Blog:

In addition to the stories you see on TV, Monica is always looking for ways to help consumers find deals and avoid fraud. She'll blog about what you need to know here.