by Brianna Crandall — January 8, 2018 — Especially in light of the recent widespread wildfires that devastated large areas of California, but also as a reminder for everyday safe business practice, several jurisdictions have sent out warnings in recent months cautioning businesses against fraudulent fire inspectors representing a fake company.
According to Vancouver-based fire prevention company Community Fire Prevention, typically, these individuals will come into a business and introduce themselves as a contractor working in the area. They will usually approach a staff member, preferring to avoid owners and upper management. Often there will be no uniform, and their identification tags may appear shoddy and homemade. Vehicles will be unmarked. Upon completing the job, they may request a cash payment or to barter services. There will be no paperwork or records left behind.
The 30-year-old family-owned business asserts that a reputable fire inspection company will never drop in, nor will they try to collect payment on the day of service. If you suspect suspicious activity, it is best to contact the police.
CFP offers these five tips to prevent fire inspection scams:
- Educate your staff. Make sure they know who your fire service provider is and that they are not authorized to approve drop-in inspections.
- If approached, ask for a business card and identification. Then place a call on a private phone to verify if the company and the person at your business are legitimate prior to letting them commence any work.
- Call the city to ensure they hold a valid city business license and always ask for a copy of liability insurance.
- Get clear information about how inspections are scheduled and set up by your fire services provider.
- Do not let the fear of staying compliant lead you to assume that an individual can say they have authorization to access your premises. You have the right to refuse anybody.
According to CFP, qualified technicians will provide company photo identification and will be in uniform. Readers in British Columbia can log on to the ASTTBC Fire Protection Web site to ensure an inspector still holds valid certification.
To help company personnel identify potential posers, the company posted a helpful blog: “Be Aware of SCAM Fire Inspectors in Vancouver BC.“
Here is a sampling of scam warnings from jurisdictions in California, including details pertinent to their specific areas:
- Newport Beach, CA: Fire Inspection Fraud Prevention
- Poway, CA: Fraud Awareness
- Brea, CA: Fraudulent Fire Inspectors
- Garden Grove, CA: “Fake fire inspectors targeting Garden Grove businesses” (KABC-TV article)