Treasure Valley restaurants targeted by fire scam

Three fast-food restaurants in the Treasure Valley recently were targeted by a fire scam.

The Idaho Department of Insurance is warning restaurant owners and employees to beware of the scam, in which a caller claims to be a fire fighter and instructs the employee to turn on the fire-suppression system.

So far, the department knows of eight businesses in Idaho targeted by the phony calls.

Three businesses activated their systems on the caller’s instruction, causing potentially thousands of dollars in damage and prompting the local fire department to respond. One of those businesses was in the Treasure Valley.

The department and state fire marshal’s office declined to identify the local restaurants but said they are part of the same fast-food chain.

The scammers could face felony charges if they are caught, the department said.

“Firefighters will never contact restaurants by telephone to request activation of fire suppression systems or fire alarms,” State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl said in a news release. “If restaurant employees receive such a phone call, they should just hang up.”

Fire-suppression systems should only be tested by professionals, in a very controlled setting, the department said.

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey