Having continued for more than a decade, the jury duty scam remains one of the most successful multipurpose intimidation impostor schemes. Fraudsters can not only get a quick payoff but also enough personal details for future identity theft.
Usually, the deception is about failing to appear for mandated jury duty, although some targets are told they skipped a court-summoned order to appear as a defendant, are in contempt or have a federal warrant out for their arrest.
Always, callers claim to be members of law enforcement, whether it’s the local police, the sheriff’s department or the U.S. Marshals Service.
Here’s how the scheme works: It starts with a phone call, usually made after hours (one clue it’s a scam), that claims you are facing imminent arrest because you didn’t report for mandated jury duty. This news may seem authentic, with your caller ID showing phone numbers for a courthouse or law enforcement agency, and the con artist citing names of actual police and judges. The aim is to scare you into making the usual response: “What?! I never received a jury duty summons!”
Then comes the gotcha: To avoid arrest, the caller says, you can pay a fine (typically requested in the form of a prepaid debit or gift card). And to verify he’s called the correct violator, the swindler asks to confirm your identity by soliciting personal information, including your name, birth date, Social Security number and other ID theft-worthy details.
The verdict on this familiar and widespread ruse (recently reported from coast to coast): Hang up without providing any information about yourself — and certainly don’t run off to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak or iTunes gift card. Here’s why:
- Authentic jury duty notifications, as well as “no show” summonses, are nearly always delivered by mail. In rare instances prospective jurors may be telephoned by legitimate courthouse employees, but only after a jury duty summons was mailed but returned to sender because it couldn’t be delivered — and you won’t be asked for personal information such as your Social Security number, birth date or driver’s license number.
- Legitimate police officials never give a head’s-up phone call warning of an impending arrest, about missing jury duty or any other infraction.
- These fake phone calls often come in the evening, after the courthouse has closed and its employees have left. Gleaning targets’ names and addresses from phone directories or other public records, scammers often call after usual working hours because they know they have a better chance of reaching their intended victims.
- Caller ID can be manipulated to display the name and phone number of any agency or business, so don’t be fooled. If you have concerns, look up the courthouse phone number (don’t rely on caller-provided numbers) and verify missed jury allegations with the jury duty coordinator or court clerk’s office.
For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and keep tabs of scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.
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