Jury duty scam sweeps county

February 20, 2014
Scammers posing as officials with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office are threatening people with arrest if the don't pay up for ostensibly skipping out on jury duty.

The phone scam has been going on for weeks, targeting hundreds of people across the county -- and apparently some people have fallen for it.

On Wednesday, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, about 25 people at the Sheriff's Office Main Headquarters "reported that they had been contacted directly by the Sheriff's Office and warned that a warrant was out for their arrest because they did not show up for required jury duty."

After making the threat, the caller demands the prospective victim "use a pre-paid credit card to clear the outstanding warrant."

"The Sheriff's Office wants to caution residents that these calls are fraudulent and have no connection to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office," according to Ms. Hoover.

Anyone who receives such a call should hang up and call the Sheriff's Office directly to report the incident.

The department does not collect money over the phone.

"Nor do we notify individuals of outstanding warrants via telephone," said Ms. Hoover.

Merchants that sell pre-paid credit cards are being warned of the scam so they can warn potential victims.

Because technology the scammers use is hard to track, authorities say the best way to protect yourself is to be aware.

According to Ms. Hoover, other law enforcement agencies, including the Santa Barbara Police Department and Ventura County Sheriff's Office, are also experiencing issues "with a similar if not the same phone scam."

Santa Barbara News-Press