I have written previously about scams servers use to rip off restaurants and how to avoid them. These are not the only scams that restaurant managers need to be aware of. There are a number of tricks that scammers use to defraud restaurants. Some of these have been used for decades. They have been around so long that seasoned managers can spot them from a mile away.
Unfortunately, they have also been around long enough that newer managers do not always receive the warning. This post is intended to serve as a reminder. You may know about each of these scams, but please make sure your fellow managers do as well. These scams continue to be attempted because managers continue to fall for them. Do not let a member of your staff be the next to fall for one of these tricks.
The TTY/TDD/TRS Scam: This is one of the most annoying scams that restaurant managers must deal with. The scammer calls the restaurant through a Telephone Relay Service designed for the deaf or hearing impaired. The call is relayed through an operator and the person who initiated the call is using a computer to type replies. This make these calls last significantly longer than most calls. The caller is usually requesting a large carryout order for pick up at a future date. When the date arrives they will inform you that they are not able to pick up the order themselves. They will send a driver to pick it up. They will also request that you charge their credit card for an additional amount to be handed over to the driver in cash. This is usually to tip the driver or the caterers. They will invite you to add a significant tip for yourself. If you refuse, no one will show up to pick up the food. The credit card they provide is a stolen number and you will not get paid for any of it.
The kicker with this scam is that you are legally required to take these phone calls. The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents you from refusing to accept orders from someone who is deaf or hearing impaired. Even though estimates show that 85%-90% of all calls using this service are made by people who are neither deaf nor hearing impaired. The simplest solution is to simply state that you do not take carryout orders more than 24 hours in advance or require a credit card to be presented in person to take the order. This will generally lead to the all too familiar reply from the operator, “the caller has ended the call.”
The Printer Paper Scam: This scam preys on managers who hope to save their restaurant a great deal of money. A call comes in from a representative claiming to be from the company that provides you with printer paper. They inform you that there is a major price increase coming up, but they wanted you to be able to lock in the lower price in advance. They simply want to know how many cases of printer paper you want before the price increases. The new manager orders five cases and has them shipped to the restaurant. When they arrive, someone signs for the driver and you are now the proud owner of five cases of very heavy paper.
The call did not come from your paper supplier. If the paper you received fits your printers, it is purely by coincidence. It is also significantly more expensive than the paper you purchase from your legitimate supplier. Getting someone to answer the phone at the company that shipped it to you will be nearly impossible, but they will promptly send invoices before handing it off to a collection company. Even if you are able to get an address to return it to, shipping and restocking costs will be more expensive than just keeping the paper. You have just learned a very expensive lesson.
The Health Inspector Scam: While the other two scams have been around for ages, this one seems to have originated in the last couple of years. You receive a call from someone claiming to be the health inspector. They inform you that their inspection will be coming up soon. After collecting some basic information they ask for a credit card number to secure your inspection time. Seeing the obvious advantages of knowing exactly when the health inspector will be arriving, the manager provides their credit card number to secure the appointment.
The health inspector never shows up, but fraudulent charges begin to appear on the manager’s credit card. When the manager calls the health department they are met with some rather obvious information. The health inspector does not call to make appointments. The health inspector is paid by taxes and will never ask for a credit card. The manager has just been scammed. Cities around the country have been hit with this scam in recent months. This seems to be the fastest growing restaurant scam.
All of these scams prey on a restaurant manager’s desire to succeed by beating the system. Whether it is to increase sales through a large carryout or receive a great health inspection, these scammers are looking for managers who are looking for shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to success. If a proposition sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A manager who does not seek the advice of their fellow managers in order to keep all the credit for the deal, often has no one else to share the blame with when it goes awry.
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