A restaurant scam targeting businesses in the Lower Mainland has Vancouver Coastal Health concerned and puzzled.

"Most concerning to us is that people are calling restaurants in Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey posing as fraudulent inspectors," spokeswoman Trudi Beutel told ctvbc.ca.

Last week, restaurants in the Lower Mainland began receiving a series of phone calls from fake health authority restaurant inspectors threatening penalties to restaurant owners for failing to schedule inspections.

The scam starts with a real person calling a restaurant, and then telling the person working there to expect a second automated phone call that will give them a numeric code.

The restaurant then receives a third call from someone who says they are from the Health Department. The person demands the numeric code provided from the previous automated phone call and tries to make an appointment for a restaurant inspection.

If the individual at the restaurant doesn't comply, the caller threatens fines.

Beutel wants the public to be aware that these calls are from scam artists.

"We do not book inspections in advance, or over the phone, nor due we issue penalties over this," she said.

She advises that restaurant operators hang up the phone and call the police if they receive suspicious phone calls.

If someone claims to be a health authority inspector, she says to ask to see their ID. Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health officers carry photo identification when they are working.

The scam is linked to identity fraud attempts on Craigslist, according to a news release from Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health.

Beutel told ctvbc.ca that it could be connected to a Craigslist advertising scam, but she remains in the dark about what the phony health inspectors are attempting to accomplish.