I have been warning you about the jury duty scam for more than eight years, but it continues to snare many unwary victims. Recently law enforcement in Utah noticed an increase in jury duty scams although these scams are also continuing throughout the rest of the country as well. Generally, the scam starts with a telephone call that you receive purportedly from a law enforcement officer informing you that you have failed to appear for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. You are told, however, that you can avoid arrest and greater fines by purchasing gift cards and then sending photographs of the gift cards to the phony law enforcement officer to prove that they have been purchased. You are then told that you should then mail the gift cards to the local Clerk of Court’s office. Of course the call is a scam even though your caller ID may indicate that the call is from local law enforcement. An FBI warning two years ago about this type of scam noted that often the scammers will use a technique called “spoofing” to make the call appear on your Caller ID as if it is coming from a legitimate law enforcement agency or court. The scammer is able to get all of the information he or she needs to tap into the gift cards through the photos sent by your phone. Telling you to mail the now worthless gift cards to the local Clerk of Court’s office is done merely to make the request seem legitimate. It is also important to remember that even if you have missed jury duty, you will never be called by legitimate court officers and shaken down for a payment. It is also important to remember that no government agency accepts gift cards as payments so any time you are asked by a purported law enforcement officer, IRS agent or any other government agency employee to pay through a gift card, you can be sure it is a scam.
In another variation of the jury duty scam, when you respond that you have not missed jury duty, you are asked to provide your Social Security number for verification of your identity. In this case, the scammer is seeking your Social Security number to make you a victim of identity theft.
In a more recent variation of the scam involves the scammers calling your parents or other relatives posing as law enforcement officials seeking to find you in regard to your missed jury duty. Often the scammers use the name of real local police officers whose names they easily are able to obtain online. Some people are more apt to trust the initial call to their relative when they are told that law enforcement is looking for them. In other instances, using a search engine to look up the name of the police officer who purportedly called you or your relative may make the call seem legitimate when you find that the name is that of an actual local officer although it is merely a scammer using the real officer’s name.
It is also important to note that during the Coronavirus pandemic many courts around the country have suspended having jury trials and are not summonsing people for jury duty. Here is a link where you can find information about whether courts in your state are conducting jury trials. https://www.justia.com/covid-19/50-state-covid-19-resources/court-operations-during-covid-19-50-state-resources/
Initial contacts from courts regarding jury duty are always in writing through the mail although some systems will permit you to receive future notices through email. Under no circumstances will you receive telephone calls or text messages indicating that you have failed to report for jury duty. No court will demand payment over the phone for failing to appear for jury duty and they will not ask for your Social Security number. If you do receive such a call and you think that there is even the possibility that you might have forgotten to report for jury duty, merely call the local clerk of courts in order to get accurate information. Of course anyone calling you and telling you that you can pay your fine to them over the phone is a scammer.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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