Scams are nothing new, criminals are quick to devise new and imaginative ways to con hard working people out of their money. Last year the Brampton Guardian reported on a scam that has been going on in the Toronto area.
In the situations mentioned in the article, residents were receiving letters from private companies offering home fire inspections advising that they needed to be contacted to set up an immediate appointment for inspection, or risk fines. As pointed out by the police smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms, are required by law however, only the Fire Department is authorized to complete home inspections. They do so upon request of the home owner, and during “Home Safe Home” campaigns.
Any fire inspector will arrive in full uniform, with photo identification that states they are from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal, and will be driving a fully marked vehicle.
What a Fire Inspector Won’t Do
If someone does come to your door demanding entry, be aware that a fire inspector won’t enter your home unless invited. They will also offer their ID voluntarily, so should you ask for ID and be refused or be offered a brief flash you should close the door immediately and refuse to entertain the scammer. In the case of a genuine fire inspector being refused entry, the office will work with you to set a date and time that is suitable for you. You can contact the numbers listed here if you suspect a scammer is in the area, or to ensure that your visit (or letter) is legitimate. It’s important that you report it, whether you allowed them entry or not, this will allow everyone in the area to be notified of a potential scammer in the area.
“In addition to the money a scammer will cost you, you will also be left woefully unprepared for a fire- having likely purchased inadequate goods for inflated prices.”
These scams occur more often than you realize, and many of the con men travel throughout North America, from city to city, to continue their path of destruction. The mark of an effective charlatan is confidence, an air of authority that is backed up by fake badges and uniforms. They rely on employees, managers, business and home owners lacking knowledge of fire inspection protocol and requirements. The work by catching people off guard, thereby getting what they want as the mark doesn’t have time to react. Good people tend to worry about not complying with laws and fire protection regulations so are happy to “do the right thing”.
These swindlers will operate their scam by phone, by letter and in person as well. They may appear in uniform, with a badge, but they won’t have a marked vehicle which is a good indication of their scam. If they present themselves as being from a private company, you know immediately they have no jurisdiction and should not be entertained.
hey will carry out an inspection and then ask for cash at the end of it, leaving a receipt that they have handwritten. Alternatively, you will receive a massive bill at a later date. They operate on a fear basis, so if you refuse to pay they will threaten you with lawsuits, or collection agencies, in the hope that you will pay up.
If you are a business owner, you can avoid being a mark by keeping your employees informed of the scams that are occurring in your area. The safest bet is for them to always call the owner, or manager, to deal with any unannounced visit. If that is not possible then providing your employees with a copy of your local fire department’s seal, for reference, is a great way to assist them.