Warning: Jury Duty Scams On The Rise

  
     
August 02, 2017

Jury Duty / DoJ / SealFirst of all - You are not alone in encountering this scam. There is nothing to be embarrased about. Scammers are getting faster, smarter, more tricky, and more dangerous with your information, their resources, and some spend days to weeks researching their targets.

The scam typically works like this:

A consumer receives a phone call or voice mail from someone claiming to be with their local police or sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office or the county courts. The caller states that the consumer has missed a jury duty summons and could be arrested if they don’t pay a fine. The caller may even claim that a warrant has already been issued for the consumer’s arrest.

If the consumer responds to the caller; they are instructed to send money to the scammer to pay a fine in order to avoid arrest. The consumer is asked to provide a bank account number, wire money, or put cash on a prepaid debit card or a gift card and send it to the scammer. In some cases, the scam may be used to trick a consumer into providing sensitive personal information such as a Social Security number, date of birth, or credit card or debit card number.

This scam preys on consumers’ fear of law enforcement and unfamiliarity with how the jury duty summons process works. The caller may appear to be very legitimate -- with Caller ID showing a local number with police department information and an official-sounding voice on the phone. To help consumers see through these tricks, here are some red flags to spot these scams:

  • Courts almost exclusively contact consumers about jury duty or missed jury duty by postal mail, not by phone or email;
  • Court officials or police departments will never shake you down for payment or personal information over the phone;
  • If the call comes in the evening or at night, it’s a red flag. Real court-related calls should only come during normal business hours;
  • If the caller claims to be part of a “warranty amnesty program,” it’s likely a scam. Such programs typically require consumers with outstanding warrants (such as for failure to appear for a court date) to reach out to the courts on their own;
  • Asks to pay via wire transfer or prepaid debit card (such as MoneyPak, Reloadit iTunes or similar cards) are almost always a sure sign of fraud.

 

Here's a testimony from a local businessman whom recently encountered this scam - 

August 1, 2017 - I received a call from an "Officer Sk****r" of the VBSO (Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office) on Thursday, July 27th at 1:44 pm EST.  He left a message on my phone on my local landline in VB saying I am in possession of some documents with my name on it and to immediately call him back. The phone # he called from was 757-778-8891.  I was curious as it sounded serious so I did and he claimed there were 2 warrants out for my arrest for failing to go to Jury Duty.  I said "I never received any request for such".  He said there was a signed certified signature with my name on it dated April 20th. I told him someone must have signed my name to it. He said "that could be the case, but you need to undergo a handwriting analysis to prove that".  He said you need to post a $2,990 cash surety bond and go to your financial institution and take out the cash and you need to stay on the phone with me so I can walk you through the process and keep you safe in while driving to the required places you need to go to. I had my landline calls transferred to my cell phone as I was traveling to Richmond from VA Beach. I told him I was traveling and I could not go to the VA Beach courthouse and he had said which one are you near and I said Richmond or Chesterfield.  He asked for my starting odometer reading when I started my way to the bank and then asked for it again when I got to the bank and then upon confirmation that I have made it to the bank to get the money, then he said you have to go to a Rite Aid to purchase 5 Money Paks card in the amount of $500 each and 1 for $450.  They can be found in the card section (gift card section). 

He wanted me to take the phone in with me and keep in my pocket in case I had any questions.  Upon receipt of the Money Pak cards, he instructed me to scrape the back of the cards with a coin and read him the numbers.  He said take the receipt to Richmond Courthouse where he had faxed the paperwork to and you will get reimbursed.  Upon the successful download of the Money Pak numbers,  he handed me over to another person ("Ltd W******s") who said unfortunately, you have a page 2 which has a second citation and you need to repeat the same process for the second bond needed.   My cell phone had died as I have been on the phone with this scammer for over an hour.  Thus, the second scam did not happen.  Told him I was not going through with it.    He said the cops would be picking me up which was absurd as he did not know my address where I was in Richmond. -- Your anxiety level is so high and these guys know what to say, are very smooth and make themselves appear so credible.  Lesson:  google the number they are calling from and put the word “ scam” behind your search and you will find out.  These scammers actually use real surnames of police officers and Judges.  Your judgement and intelligence are compromised by this stress and feeds right into their story. 

I suggest anyone who gets scammed file a police report, report it to the BBB, the FTC and GreenDot.com as well as to LifeLock if you have them and your credit bureau to put a fraud alert on your credit in case of ID theft.

 

Concerned that you may have missed a jury duty summons or court date?

Contact your local courts directly by looking up the phone number online or in the phone book and calling them yourself.

Consumers should be aware that the jury duty scam is not exclusive to phone calls, either. Scammers have been known to send threatening emails or texts, purportedly from the local court, in an effort to get a consumer to send money, provide sensitive personal information (which can lead to identity theft) or install malware.

You can always visit www.BBB.org/ScamTracker to research other local scams and keep yourself "in the know".