According to Peter Yeo of Garden Grove’s Popcorn Home Shopping Store, he was approached by someone who was impersonating a fire department official and given a form to sign. According to Yeo, he signed the form in good faith, never suspecting that this was a scam.
Yeo didn’t think much of it – he signed the form and the “fire inspector” just left – without inspecting anything.
It wasn’t until Yeo began to get bills of over $200 for a so-called “Fire Protection Service” that he smelled a rat. Even though that was more than two years ago, Yeo says that he has still been getting bills. He has never paid them but said that he received a visit from the scammer again recently.
According to the Fire Department in Garden Grove, they are aware of the scam and stated that there were three or more newly-established businesses that had also been approached recently by these so-called fire inspectors.
Tom Schultz, the Fire Chief, voiced concern about the scam at a press conference, not only because people are being billed fraudulently but also because it gives the impression that the fire department charges for work that might not be necessary or for the work that they do for free.
According to Schultz, they know of one instance where the business received bills to the tune of $1000 for these so-called services.
The fire department is aiming to raise awareness of this scam through its new campaign and offers the following advice:
If the fire inspector is genuine, they will have their uniform on, they will have a card identifying themselves and they will also have a badge.
Should you not be certain whether or not the person who has presented themselves is actually legitimate, you should verify this with the Garden Grove Fire Department.
Should the fire department issue your business a fee for something, the document will have the appropriate seal from either the fire department or the city and will be on an official letterhead. You would not ever be required to pay immediately on presentation.
Be wary if the “inspector” offers to allow you to pay by credit card – the Garden Grove Fire Department does not have this facility.
According to Schultz, the department is unable to accept PayPal, Visa or MasterCard. You can either present yourself at the department and pay with cash or a check or you can mail in your check payment to the verified address.
A hotline has been set up on (714) 741-5629 to assist businesses who have fallen prey to this scam or for those who need further information about it.