Jury duty may not be anyone’s favorite way to pass the time, but if you choose to skip out, you will usually receive a court summons. In North Carolina, you get another chance to appear. If you choose to skip a second time, the court is able to take legal action.
What will not happen, however, is a phone call from the local sheriff threatening arrest unless you pay a steep fine. Unfortunately, those are just the kind of fraudulent calls Asheville area residents have been reporting.
According to complaints, the caller claims to be from the sheriff’s office and insists that the resident missed a jury duty summons and will be arrested unless the fines are immediately paid. Reports show these fake fines between $500 and $2,000. Residents are then asked to provide payment, either through credit card over the phone or through wire transfer. The scammers may also ask for social security number or other personal information to “verify the payment.”
As is usually the case, these scams are driven by fear and intimidation. They sound authentic because they use real law enforcement names and local phone numbers. The Better Business Bureau has received complaints from pastors, doctors, lawyers and the like who fell for this kind of scam because they feared damage to their reputation if actually taken to jail.
In most cases, contact between court and a potential juror is made via mail and several notices are sent when a person misses jury duty. In some cases, someone from the sheriff’s office will deliver a court summons in person, but they will be in uniform with a badge. Regardless, this type of exchange – even the collection of a legitimate fine – will never be made over the phone.
You can protect yourself by never providing personal or financial information over the phone. When in doubt, reach out to the source directly to confirm that they are trying to contact you and for what purpose. If you have been affected by this scam, notify local law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission or the Better Business Bureau.