Don't fall for a jury duty phone scam

What you need to know to avoid losing money to a crook

Published: June 16, 2015 03:30 PM

Scammers will do just about anything to get your personal information or your money, including pretending to be law enforcement. In fact, there’s an old scam in which the caller claims he's contacting you because you failed to report for jury duty.

Here’s how the scam goes: You get an out-of-the-blue call from someone who says that you failed to show up for jury duty and now there’s a warrant out for your arrest, but you can clear up the trouble right now if you “verify” your personal information, such as birth date and Social Security number. (Sound off about phone scams or share your story by leaving a comment below.)

The scammer might go even further and demand that you pay up; he’ll say that if you give your credit-card number or buy a prepaid card and share the account number with him, the problem will go away. Given the dire choice between giving in or going to jail, many victims are caught off guard and go along to defuse the situation, says the FBI.

The jury duty scam has been around since at least 2005, but people continue to get calls. That’s why we’re working to stop these calls before they come into our homes. The End Robocalls campaign is calling on the phone companies to offer consumers free tools to stop robocalls before they invade our privacy and steal our money.

Norman from Minneapolis got this call in January:

"A person claiming to be from the sheriff’s office called to state that my wife had not reported for jury duty. I immediately smelled that this was a scam, and shouted into the phone three times SCAM, SCAM . . . "

Norman did the right thing, but not everyone has been so lucky. News reports indicate that consumers have lost hundreds to the jury duty scam.

So how can you avoid falling victim? Remember these tips that we’ve complied from advice from the FBIfederal courts and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s Consumer Alert:

  • Courts do not call consumers about jury duty. Notice about jury duty will come by mail. Hang up on anyone who claims to be calling about jury service.
  • Courts do not ask people to provide personal information over the phone, so no legit caller will ask for it. You will never be asked for your Social Security number, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information by court officers or law enforcement.
  • Courts will not call consumers asking them to pay money for missing jury duty, so do not send money to any caller claiming to be from the court system. As noted, any communications about jury duty—even if you missed your assigned time to show up—will come by mail.

You can help law enforcement crack down on scammers by reporting scam calls to the police. Please also help by reporting jury duty scams to the local and federal court officials. You can find your local U.S. District Court here; look online to find state or city courts.

To help end the scourge of robocall scams, join with the more than 300,000 people who are calling on the phone companies to end robocalls.

—Christina Tetreault


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