Scam targeting bars, restaurants in the CSRA

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - A scam running through Augusta Richmond County is targeting bars and restaurants.

1102 Downtown Bar and Grill said they got the call this weekend. Someone told them they were missing a liquor permit fee.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office Lt. Lewis Blanchard said, "Once they have the person on the phone they're most likely trying to find out how the person reacts. If the phone calls start off with, "this is the department of revenue, your permit for 2014 isn't valid," and then the person responds with, "no I have paid it," then they go from there."

The caller keeps going and says they're going to need a payment with a credit card over the phone, or the Sheriff's Office, the Georgia Department of Revenue and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms will shut down the business in a few hours.

According to GDOR's website, to operate a business in Georgia where alcohol is served, you need to pay for a local license, a state license and a federal basic permit.

But Lt. Blanchard said know the bluff, not the cost. He said scammers aren't looking for a specific amount of money; just enough that won't raise a red flag on a credit card.

Lt. Blanchard said, "The Sheriff's Department and the Georgia Department of Revenue are never going to do that. We're going to go down to the business if someone is late or send you a letter."

Still, Playground Bar owner Scott Levine said it's easy to get panicked and just pay the fee. If the doors really did close, it would take weeks to re-open; weeks with no money coming in.

Levine said, " If you're a new business owner who spent their life savings opening, you're scared,  I can see it happening."

The Sheriff's Department said they're looking for leads now on who is calling. If you were scammed, Lt. Blanchard said you might be able to get your money back. If a debit card was used, it will take longer to get your money back then if you were scammed with a credit card. You might still face a fee on either.

If you have any information, contact the Sheriff's Office 706-821-1080.