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Portland Restaurants Are Being Targeted by a Phone Scam

Callers are asking restaurant owners for their credit card information to pay for COVID-19 related violations

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Amidst mass dining room closures and worker layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling restaurants now have another issue to deal with — Multnomah County issued an alert on April 9, warning restaurant owners about a phone scam trying to gather credit card information due to “COVID-19 violations.”

Fox 12 first reported that callers claiming to be from the Health Department have contacted restaurants, claiming they owe a fine for a COVID-19 related violation, and asking for their credit card number. “It’s a live person, so people may think there’s some legitimacy,” say Jeff Martin, environmental health supervisor for Multnomah County Health Department. He adds that there would be a record if a restaurant did owe money for a fine or a bill “If there were a violation there would be an invoice sent. It would never be a call up to say, ‘You owe us money.’”

The health department has sent scam warnings in English and Spanish to all restaurant operators in Multnomah County, and Martin says that the department is unsure if the attempted scam is ongoing. “When there’s an opportunity, these scams will occur,” he says, and cautions to never give credit card information over the phone to strangers. “If you need to pay a fine, you can always mail a payment in to our office or you can call the mainline number so you know who you’re talking to.”

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