Health Department Scam
1) A number of restaurants in have received telephone calls from a person claiming to be a
“health inspector from the US Department of Health” introducing a new procedure for arranging
a health inspection. The phony health inspector scam asks the business owner to follow a procedure
to get a special “code” to confirm the upcoming inspection. Later the business owner receives a
second call asking for the “confirmation code.” Of course, there is no such inspection and no
real inspector ever arrives. This phony inspector scheme is part of a larger fraud involving setting
up “verified” accounts with a national on-line auction service. The purpose of the “code” request
is to get the small business owner to provide false verification to the online auction service. The
fraud artist does this to establish a bogus on-line account to be used in other fraud schemes.
2) The New Mexico Environmental Health Division has reported to AG Gary King’s Consumer
Protection Division that the latest version of the “Health Inspector” scam is making its way into
restaurants statewide. Posing as health inspectors from the “State Health Department” and the
“United States Department of Agriculture,” scammers are calling restaurant employees in
Alamogordo, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Clovis, and Deming stating they have “had a complaint” and
will be visiting their establishment “today.” During the discussion, the scammer instructs the
restaurant employee to “hang up the phone” so as to receive another call that will “provide ID
numbers of the inspectors.” The subsequent call is automated and provides a “craigslist
password” while another reported call requests credit card machine numbers. In a similar
version, the restaurant is asked to call a number to verify an inspection time and to provide a
Another version of this scam is also targeting restaurants. In this scheme scammers are trying to
trick restaurants into helping them establish an identity for an online service like Craigslist,
which will allow the scammers to bypass Craigslist verification controls put in place to prevent
spam and online scams.
Here’s how it works:
Scammers contact a restaurant or hotel and claim to be health inspectors. They then attempt to
set up a time for the inspection. Before ending the call, the caller gives the restaurant/hotel
employee a 5-digit confirmation code, which they say must be given to the health inspector.
Another call is then received sometime later that day asking the restaurant/hotel owner to relay
the confirmation number. If they do that, though they themselves have not provided any sensitive
financial information, they’ve helped the scammers get past Craigslist (or other online services’)
verification controls.
To set up a Craigslist account, users have to provide a phone number. So scammers, not wanting
to tie their phone number to an account used for fraudulent purposes, will enter the telephone
number of a legitimate business – usually that of a restaurant or hotel. Again, the goal for the
scammers is for the restaurant owner to read back to verification code so that they can use a
Craigslist account that isn’t tied to their company for fraudulent purposes.
PREVENTION: Though it is not clear the specific intent of the calls, the “Health Inspector”
scammers appear to be phishing for credit card numbers and personal information. Individuals
receiving this type of call are asked to report the activity to their local law enforcement agency
and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office at
Food facilities owners/operators need to be aware of this scam and should protect themselves
from this fraudulent action by understanding:
· The Environmental Health Division does not announce inspections in advance, will not
call in advance of an inspection requesting information and will not call to schedule an
inspection (there may be rare exceptions). Also health inspections are not done by the
“US Department of Health”; they are handled by the state, City of Albuquerque or
Bernalillo County Environmental Health Departments in New Mexico.
· The Environmental Health Division has not developed a new inspection procedure. Any
caller identifying him/herself as a “health inspector” asking you to participate in a “code”
process, requesting account information or soliciting other information is part of a fraud
· If you do not recognize your inspector, please ask for proper photo identification.
Inspectors must present a state-issued photo identification before conducting an
· Never give out personal or business identification information over the phone unless you
are certain of the identity of the person with whom you are speaking.
· The United States Department of Agriculture and State of New Mexico Health Inspectors
will never ask for any type of payment or credit card information. Inspectors never accept
cash payment for inspections. Permit fees must be paid by a check or money order made
payable to the “New Mexico Environment Department.” Inspectors do not charge for
grade emblems, permits, or food safety signs.