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March 20, 2011 (San Diego)--The San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) is warning local businesses of a fraud targeting restaurants and other small businesses in California, including San Diego County.


How the scam works:  An individual claiming to be a “health inspector” has been calling restaurants in California claiming there is a new procedure to arrange a health inspection. Scamsters use info obtained from the business to set up online accounts, which can then be used in other fraud schemes.


“A DEH inspector will never call a business to conduct an inspection,” said Jack Miller, DEH Director. “There is no new DEH inspection procedure.”


As part of the scheme, the phony “health inspector” asks the business owner to follow a procedure to get a special “code” to confirm the upcoming inspection. Later the business owner receives a second call asking for the “confirmation code.” Of course, there is no such inspection and no real inspector ever arrives.


This phony inspector scheme is believed to be part of a larger fraud scheme involving the set up of “verified” accounts with a national on-line auction service. The purpose of the “code” request is to get the small business owner to provide false verification to the online auction service. The fraud artist does this to establish a bogus on-line account to be used in other fraud schemes.


Business owners can protect themselves from fraudulent practice by remembering the following:

• County DEH inspectors only conduct unannounced inspections. DEH never calls in advance to schedule this kind of inspection.
• No new DEH inspection procedure has been developed.
• DEH staff and personnel from any legitimate governmental agency will always have proper photo identification. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an inspector visiting your business, ask for identification.
• Never give out personal or business identification information over the phone unless you are certain of the identity of the person calling.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Environmental Health Specialist on duty at (858) 505-6900.


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