Schemers mimic food inspectors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2011

Restaurants beware. The Alabama Department of Public Health is warning food establishments of an inspection scam.

Several county health departments throughout the state have been contacted by food service establishments concerning individuals claiming to be health inspectors.

The scam involves a call from a person who says he or she is from the health department and who demands the store make an appointment for a health inspection. The caller may also ask for personal information as an apparent identify theft attempt.

“For normal business, if we make a call, we will identify ourselves,” said food inspector Stacy Williamson. “If the establishment doesn’t feel comfortable talking on the phone, we can always come out.”

Williamson also said that health department officials never call ahead for an inspection.

An inspector from the health department will have a photo identification badge.

Williamson said as a general rule of thumb, health department officials are not going to discuss business of a serious matter over the phone.

“We will never ask about finances or accounts,” he said. “We are not going to demand payment over the phone.”

If the store manager is not certain about the legitimacy of the credentials, he or she should contact the local county health department for verification.

Additionally, Williamson said health department employees generally do not conduct business from county to county.

Similar scams have been reported in other parts of the nation concerning individuals posing as health inspectors appearing at an establishment, fining the business and trying to collect cash from the proprietor.