Several restaurants in the Greater Victoria and Nanaimo areas report receiving phone calls from phony Restaurant Inspectors who threaten fines for not scheduling inspections. This appears to be part of an on-going continent-wide scam that, at its core, is an attempt to circumvent Craigslist’s security settings through identity fraud.
“We want all restaurant operators to be aware of this scam and that it’s happening here on the Island as well as in other major centres in BC” said Ann Thomas, VIHA’s Regional Manager for Health Protection. “Restaurants that receive these kinds of calls should report them immediately to the police.”
Restaurants in Victoria and Nanaimo, and several restaurants on the lower mainland have been targeted by these suspicious calls. The scammer’s method of operation has been the same in all cases and involves a series of phone calls.
The first call is from a real person who advises that a subsequent automated call will provide the restaurant operator with a numeric code that needs to be written down. This is followed soon after by another caller who identifies themselves as being from the “Health Department.” This caller requests the numeric code and seeks to set up an in-person restaurant inspection. The caller threatens fines if the restaurant doesn’t co-operate.
“That’s not the way we work,” said Thomas. “Restaurant inspections are unannounced and Environmental Health Officers in VIHA do not routinely call food service establishments to schedule inspections.”
Unless an immediate health hazard exists, a series of enforcement actions will take place before a restaurant operation gets a violation ticket or a closure order. VIHA does not issue a violation ticket to a restaurant operator for failing to schedule an inspection.
VIHA Environmental Health Officers carry official health authority photo ID. Restaurant operators or restaurant staff should always request to see this ID, especially when the Environmental Health Officer who arrives at the restaurant isn’t known to staff.
If a restaurant has unwittingly booked a fraudulent inspection over the phone, and someone posing as a Health Inspector shows up, the restaurant operator or staff should ask to see the Inspector’s official VIHA identification. If they can’t produce one, refuse the person entry and immediately call the police through 9-1-1.
For more information visit the VIHA website at http://www.viha.ca/
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