Florida, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, California, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Hampshire
Warning from the FBI:
The phone rings, you pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You explain that you never received a jury duty notice. To clear it up, the caller says he’ll need some information for “verification purposes” – your birth date, social security number, and maybe even a credit card number.
THIS IS WHEN YOU SHOULD HANG UP THE PHONE. IT’S A SCAM!
Jury duty scams have been around for years, but we have seen a resurgence in recent months. Communities in more than a dozen states have issued public warnings about cold calls from people claiming to be court officials seeking personal information. As a rule, court officers never ask for confidential information over the phone; they generally correspond with prospective jurors via mail.
The scam’s bold simplicity may be what makes it so effective. Facing the unexpected threat of arrest, victims are caught off guard and may be quick to part with some information to quickly diffuse the situation. “They get scared first,” says an FBI Special Agent in the Minneapolis field office who has heard the complaints. “They get people saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not a criminal! What’s going on?’” That’s when the scammer dangles a solution – a fine, payable by credit card that will clear up the problem.
With enough information, scammers can assume your identity and empty your bank accounts.
“It seems like a very simple scam,” the agent adds. The trick is putting people on the defensive, then reeling them back in with the promise of a clean slate. “It’s kind of ingenious. It’s social engineering.”
In recent months, communities in Florida, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, California, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Hampshire reported scams or posted warnings or press releases on their local websites. The federal court system has issued a warning on the scam and urged people to call their local District Court office if they receive suspicious calls. The FBI also suggests that victims call their local FBI field office.
The jury scam is a simple variation of the identity-theft ploys that have proliferated in recent years as personal information and good credit have become thieves’ preferred prey, particularly on the Internet. Scammers might tap your information to make a purchase on your credit card, but could just as easily sell your information to the highest bidder on the Internet’s black market.
PROTECTING YOURSELF IS THE KEY: Never give out personal information when you receive an unsolicited phone call or email request.
For more information on scams, you can go to www.fbi.gov or www.snopes.com