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Fight Fraud in Your Restaurant

Last Tuesday, June 14, New York’s Times Union reported that a number of restaurants in Albany County have been victimized by restaurant reservation fraud.  A man dressed in combat fatigues reserves the place for supposedly a large party for his comrades at the service – but no one arrives at the arranged time.    This happened at Provence and T.G.I. Friday’s (both in Stuvyesant Plaza), The Epicurean Bistro and Wine Bar (Lathan Farms,) Macaroni Grill (Colonie), Ninety Nine Restaurant (Guilderland), and several others.  The apron-clad employees of these establishments claim they each received a visit from the “soldier” with the initials of K.H. (the actual name is being withheld pending further investigation) between the last week of May and early last week, arranging for parties that are scheduled a few days after the visit.  Such parties were said to have around 42 to 48 attendees who are soldiers said to be coming

from Afghanistan.  The man offers his telephone number and email address as his contact details which were later on discovered to be fake ones.  Such scam entailed expensive damages to the restaurants involved.

On the same day (June 14), the Las Vegas Review-Journal recounted the story of how people pose as health inspectors to scam local restaurants in Nevada .

They call restaurants and collect personal details such as names, Social Security Numbers, credit card information and email addresses, claiming that those are required for a forthcoming health inspection.  Officials of the Southern Nevada Health District refute the process, as health district officials are supposed to turn up in the establishment unannounced as a matter of procedure– they do not call and ask details.  The most that an inspector would ask for is a health card.  About 25 businesses have reported the incident to the police or health district in a period of six months.

Today, a report from Canada came in that the same restaurant fraud is happening  in their area– people masquerading as health inspectors with the same modus operandi – although they don’t ask for personal details this time. The restaurant owner is asked to take a follow-up telephone call and is instructed to enter a registration code when he is prompted to do so.  The scammers claim that by doing this, the restaurant owner will be connected to another Health Inspector.  Authorities say that this modus allows the fraudsters to connect the restaurant’s telephone to long-distance systems that will permit them to charge enormous long distance call charges to the business operator.

The general message?  Be wary; be cautious not to fall for such scams.  Just like a whole lot of other businesses these days, your restaurant is prone to being the next fraud casualty.  While there are a lot of ways to dodge out of these scams, it turns out that the most important method of avoiding it is being aware of the type of fraudulent activities that could come your way.  Know as much possible—cliché as it may sound, but let knowledge be your power.  Beat them by recognizing firsthand what the swindlers are set out to do.

Next, it is said that scams prey on a business operator’s longing to accomplish things the easier way.   These impostors know that restaurant managers want to increase their sales, or receive an outstanding health inspection report – and they are looking for the ones who are open to proposals for “short-cuts.”  Knowing that, stick out your sensory antenna when those too good to be true deals are laid out.  Stick to the procedure.  In taking reservations, make sure to ask for deposits so as not to incur expensive preparation damages and lost opportunity cost for possible no-shows.  When people claim that they are health inspectors, health officials advise that restaurant employees should request for a photo ID and a business card that corroborates with their claim.

This blog from hereon, would aim to give you more information on other possible fraudulent activities that could possibly come your way.  Meantime, remember some Desiderata lines – exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.  But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. While it is always rewarding to trust and believe in people, it always pays to be cautious.