Beware phony health inspectors calling restaurantsRestaurant operators around the country are being warned about people posing as health inspectors who may trying calling them asking for personal information and seeking an in-person restaurant inspection.

Officials in California and Washington say the scam involves a series of phone calls, including threats of a fine for lack of cooperastion, designed to pry personal information out of the restaurant owners.

Washington State Department of Health officials say they've heard from local health authorities that businesses in several counties have recently received calls. They say some of the callers may have requested personal information such as cell phone numbers. They don't believe any of the callers have requested Social Security numbers or bank account information. However, one business owner reported that a caller threatened to fine his business $5,000 unless he provided personal information over the phone.


Officials in Stanislaus County, Calif., issued an alert last week saying the scam was part of a larger operation in which verified accounts are set up with a national online auction service. The code is to get small business owners to provide information to the online auction service and then that information can be used in other schemes.

Business owners who think they may have fallen victim to the scam can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They can also place a fraud alert or security freeze on their credit files if they've provided any personal information to the scammer.

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