Health officials warn of restaurant inspector scam Print

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.


At least two such phones calls in North Carolina have been reported so far by news outlets. The Salisbury Post reported Thursday that an oriental restaurant in Salisbury had been targeted. The Laurinburg Exchange reported a similar incident in Scotland County.


In a news release issued Nov. 15th, Larry Michael, head of the division’s Food Protection Branch, said 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.


Donna Brown, an environmental health inspector with the Haywood County Health Department, said they’ve received no notification of this type in Haywood County, but she encouraged local food service establishments and other business owners to be aware of this scam and to take steps to protect themselves.


“Haywood County Health Department inspectors for food and lodging do not make appointments with the restaurant for an inspection,” Brown said.  “We arrive, identify ourselves, state the nature of our visit – whether it’s for an inspection, complaint investigation, critical violation follow-up, etc. Then we begin our inspection at that time.  We do not schedule and come back later to inspect.”


Brown suggested that business owners remember the following:


  • Never provide personal or business information by phone unless you are certain of the person with whom you are speaking. 
  • Ask for proper photo identification if you do not recognize any inspector.
  • Contact the health department or DENR if there is any doubt about the identity of a person who claims to be a health inspector.

For questions or more information, contact the Haywood County Environmental Health Department at 828-452-6682. 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.