Local fire officials are warning business owners and their employees to be on the lookout for phony “fire inspectors” who have been visiting businesses throughout Los Angeles County.
Scam artists in official-looking, but fake, uniforms have been walking into businesses and performing questionable “fire safety inspections,” according to Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
Scammers typically enter a business and suggest they are members of the fire department and tell the staff that “they need to inspect the fire protection system,” or that “they need to inspect various components of the fire protection system,” according to county officials.
They will then look at the businesses alarms, fire sprinklers, hood systems and fire extinguishers. Oftentimes, scammers ask an employee to sign a form authorizing the inspections.
Weeks or months later owners receive an invoice for services that were fraudulently performed, officials said.
How to Ensure You're Dealing With a Legitimate County Fire Inspector
Los Angeles County Fire Department crews inspect businesses annually, but do not charge. Business owners, managers and employees should not let anyone inspect their fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, hood systems or any other protection devices unless they have an agreement with a specific fire protection company, officials said.
To help ensure that a fire inspection is legitimate, the fire department suggests the following four-step process:
- Inspectors should introduce themselves as County of Los Angeles Fire Department employees or identify their business and produce a business card. Allowing an individual to enter your business without a clear understanding of whom that person is, as well as their intentions, is not recommended.
- Inspectors should be able to present a copy of their current county or city business license. Legitimate contractors should have a “C-10” endorsement to inspect fire alarms or a “C-16” endorsement to inspect fire sprinklers and fix fire protection systems. Licenses can be verified by checking with the Contractor’s State License Board at their website.
- Inspectors should be able to tell you what they intend to do and what the estimated costs will be. Never pay in cash. Invoicing and recordkeeping are important for your business and help assist in establishing future legal avenues if the inspection turns out to be fraudulent.
- Inspectors must leave any broken and/or replaced parts with you. They also must provide a signed invoice.
Cerritos and Artesia Business Owners Who Are Still Unsure?
The cities of Cerritos and Artesia remind business owners that they have the right to refuse service by any inspector until they contact the County of Los Angeles Fire Department for guidance.
If you suspect suspicious activity:
- Cerritos business owners should call the Cerritos Sheriff's Station at (562) 860-0044 or the County of Los Angeles Fire Department Public Affairs Office at (323) 881-2411.
- Artesia business owners should call the Lakewood Sheriff's Station at (562) 623-3500 or the County of Los Angeles Fire Department Public Affairs Office at (323) 881-2411.