Caller scam aimed at area restaurants

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A scam targeted at local restaurants may leave business operators with a bad taste in their mouths.

The Walla Walla County Health Department said at least two restaurants have reported receiving telephone calls from someone complaining either about food poisoning or an issue with the food. In both cases, the caller said a health inspector would be stopping by to "check everything."

Director of Environmental Health Barry Jenkins said in an announcement Thursday the calls reportedly began about two weeks ago. The health department received its first complaint from a downtown Walla Walla restaurant operator who reported receiving the suspicious call Jan. 25.

The man on the other end of the line complained of food poisoning and said a health inspector would be there the next day.

However the phone number on the caller ID had a California area code of 760. The caller also provided a "checking number" to give the "inspector." The business received a second call from the same person at a different California area code of 415. No inspector ever showed up, and no more calls came.

A similar report came Feb. 1 from a restaurant operator on the other side of town. That operator also received a number to provide an inspector who was purportedly going to stop by. No one showed up. Again, the telephone number on the caller ID had the 760 California area code.

Similar reports have also been made in Kitsap, King and Pierce counties.

Health Department officials say the police have been notified about the calls.

The attempts to impersonate health officials could be an intention to defraud restaurants, they say. Anyone receiving similar calls should: confirm the identity of those claiming to be from the Health Department; get the full name and phone number of the caller; and ask to see identification from anyone unfamiliar who shows up.

To confirm legitimate staff or communications, call 524-2662, or 524-2650 after hours. If the identity is not confirmed, call the police. Scam phone calls can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

Walla Walla's Great American Pastime needs people with pipes.

The Walla Walla Sweets are looking for local and regional singing talent to perform the American and Canadian national anthems at home games this summer.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" opens every home game. "O Canada" is also performed when the Sweets host the Kelowna Falcons. That team will visit for a three-game series July 30-Aug. 1.

Individuals and small groups are encouraged to audition. According to an announcement Thursday from the West Coast League team, the size of the group can vary, but should be able to fit around one microphone.

Beth Swanson, community relations manager for the team, said more home dates are scheduled for this year. For more information or to apply, fill out the application and follow additional instructions at wallawallasweets.com/community. Those with questions can e-mail Swanson at: beth@wallawallasweets.com .

Tourism Walla Walla is signing up participants for the SuperHost workshop.

Known as the standard-bearer for customer-service training, the program was created by the Visitors & Conventions Bureau in Vancouver, B.C., in anticipation of the World Expo in 1988 as a way to prepare volunteers and those in the tourism industry for the onslaught of visitors.

The material and entertaining format has become a licensed program with growth not only in the U.S., but in Europe, South American, Asia and Scandinavia. Walla Walla's upcoming workshop will be split into an afternoon session Feb. 22 and a morning version Feb. 23. To receive certification, attendees must complete both sessions. To register, call Tourism Walla Walla at 525-8799 or email: aholt@wallawalla.org . The deadline to register is Feb. 15.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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