Fire extinguisher inspection scam soaks Yonkers

Need an illegal and ethics-deficient money-making scam, but short on creativity? Look around at whatever nearby infrastructure you can see, then pretend to inspect it. Pro tip: Carry a clipboard and wear a short-sleeved button-down with a tie. Nobody looks more trustworthy than a ’60s-era mission control tech.
Fire officials in Yonkers, New York, are warning area businesses about scammers posing as inspectors making unauthorized fire extinguisher inspections. Identifying themselves as contractors for the local fire department, representatives of one or more New York-based fire extinguisher distributors are conducting these on-site inspections, falsely claiming that code-mandated equipment needs immediate servicing or replacement, and threatening to report the businesses to fire officials.
Yonkers: burned by fire extinguisher scammers. From Dougtone; licensed under Creative Commons.
Officials in Hackettstown, NJ, identify ABC Extinguishing Company of New York as one reported perpetrator. (Victimized businesses cite a sales rep named “Chris.” Watch your back, Chris.) Scams like this one are unscrupulous hard-sell tactics by dishonest distributors, but another common scam involves a fabricated inspection by unlicensed individuals who often threaten the business with fines. Following “inspection,” the scammers present the owners with an invoice. Why hasn’t David Mamet written a play about this?
It happens everywhere. If someone with an overly aggressive demeanor approaches you about the extinguishers in your business, it might be good to ask for ID. Keeping business owners on the defensive and using intimidating tactics are intended to deflect questions.
New York requires the inspection, testing, and servicing of portable fire extinguishers at regular intervals and the maintenance of records for a minimum of three years— which means that the businesses most likely to be susceptible to this scam are the ones that haven’t kept regular records or apprised employees of equipment status. Be aware that if an inspector demands to see your extinguishers, you can demand to see his certificate of fitness— in New York, all inspectors of portable fire extinguishers have to be certified.
All of which highlights the importance of properly tagging and locating extinguishers. Tagged extinguishers are like dogs with up-to-date vaccination tags: everyone knows that they’re safe and well-cared-for, and neither one will start spontaneously foaming. It’s obvious at a glance to employees and fire inspectors that an extinguisher has been properly serviced. Imagine a fake inspector, twirling his Snidely Whiplash mustache and threatening to report a regularly serviced extinguisher with a debossed aluminum tag.
First, check the equipment in your business, and then check here for OSHA requirements and state-specific information about fire extinguisher tags.
In a statement, Robert Sweeney, Commissioner of the Yonkers Fire Department, said, “It is our responsibility to keep our residents informed of potential scams and frauds. In this case, please be aware that the Yonkers Fire Department does not send private companies, such as portable fire extinguisher servicing companies, to conduct official Yonkers Fire Department inspections. If you suspect a possible scam, please report it.”
Just don’t hose them down with an extinguisher, because that obviously plays directly into their hands.
Fire Extinguisher With Tag
Use our resources to learn about whether your fire extinguishers actually need servicing or inspection.
Licensed via Creative Commons; via stevendepolo.