The state Department of Agriculture is warning area restaurants to steer clear of an individual posing as a health inspector who is calling establishments looking for business information and money.
Within the last two weeks, a Berks County restaurant was targeted by these scammers, but the phenomena is occurring statewide, officials said.
"The male (caller) claimed to be from the "State Health Department" and advised the restaurant manager that an inspection was being done the next day. However, before the inspection could proceed, the manager was requested to give her personal cell phone number so that the state health department could call her back with an 'Inspection ID Number,'" said Dr. Lydia Johnson, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services.
Additionally, the scammers claimed the restaurant owner could be fined $500 for the refusal to cooperate.
Agriculture Secretary George Greig said the caller is not a licensed agent of the state or any county.
He also reminded restaurants that inspections by the Department of Agriculture's food sanitarians are always unannounced.
Upon arrival, sanitarians will identify themselves and show proper identification, including a commonwealth employee photo identification card and food sanitarian badge.
If a restaurant is contacted by someone claiming to be a health inspector who seems suspicious, restaurant personnel should contact local law enforcement.