People have been posing as fire inspectors, complete with official-looking uniforms, offering to conduct an inspection of local businesses, officials said this week.
Typically they come uninvited to a business and ask for an unsuspecting employee to sign a form authorizing the inspection. If they do the inspection, they have the employee sign their form and then the business owner receives a bill at a later date or worse yet, the person may demand the money up front, officials said.
The mailed statements usually demand immediate payment and threaten penalties for any failure to pay promptly.
The scam is happening all over Southern California.
Recently the Los Angeles Fire Department wrote an article to their business community warning of similar activity in their city. In the letter, fire officials said the most troubling aspect of the fake inspections is that some workers and guests will falsely believe that fire extinguishers, alarm systems, emergency lighting, exit signage and fire sprinklers are fully up to code and operating effectively.
The only fire inspections business owners should be receiving are those conducted by the Santa Monica Fire Department.
“Our members are properly identified as Santa Monica Fire Department personnel and they will contact the owner or manager of the business and announce their reason for being at your business,” said Nancy Johnson, SMFD fire marshal. “They will also explain what they will be inspecting and will discuss their findings when their inspection is complete. In addition, our members carry identification that clearly states their name and position with the Santa Monica Fire Department.”
Those who are approached and are suspicious should contact the Santa Monica Police Department immediately and then call the Fire Prevention Division at (310) 458-8915 to report the incident. If possible, try and get the name and phone number of the company of the person posing as a fire inspector, officials said.
“We are working to stop the practice of fire inspection impersonations, which costs business owners money for services that ultimately serve no purpose,” Johnson said.