WEST COVINA (CBSLA.com) — Police in West Covina are warning residents and businesses about con artists posing as fire inspectors.

At least three local businesses have already been victimized.

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CBS2’s Bobby Kaple reports on how the scam works and how to protect yourself from being burned.

The suspect tries to con people into letting them into their business to conduct a bogus inspection. He says the inspection is “mandatory” and then bills for his service. And Kaple says that is where the ripoff comes in — there is no real inspection.

The man most recently showed up on January 27.  The suspect showed up at two businesses in the 200 block of South Citrus Avenue and claimed to be acting on behalf of the property manager. He said he was there to ensure the sprinkler systems were working properly.

The fire extinguishers were also part of the equation. The man was allowed to make a visual inspection after entering the business.

He got the victims to sign forms saying the work was completed. Several days later, each of the businesses got a bill in the mail for $325.

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Kaple said that is when authorities were contacted. At that point, police became aware of the same scam artist ripping off a nearby car dealership for $6,000.

Police in West Covina believe the scam artist will branch out to other areas — if he already hasn’t.

Some tips on how to avoid the scam:

• Verify with your property owner that an inspection has been scheduled. That is key.

• Ask to see identification — all real inspectors will have it.

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• Be aware of what you are signing.