While a large number of scams today occur online, some of the most devious plots still rely upon the use of the good 'ol fashioned telephone. The jury duty telephone scam is one such scheme. These scams surfaced in many places across the United States and dates back to at least February 2001, according to several court web pages that warn the public about the scam; chances are it has been going on even longer.
Back in 2005-2006 many reports of this scam circulated to warm the public about these scammers attempting to commit identity theft by using jury duty as the bait. The jury duty hoax later resurfaced repeatedly in the news again in 2008, 2009 and 2010, although, perhaps it has really never gone away. Officials have given many warnings over the years. Several incidents of the jury duty telephone scam were again reported by the media throughout 2014 and 2015. Fast-forward to May and June 2016 and several new reports of this scam have re-surfaced, dozens in this two-month time frame alone, if a Google search is any indicator. One of the recent victims is said to have lost almost $2,000 to these scammers. 1
What happens is the fraudsters call residents and use social engineering tricks to try to get information. They then attempt to send people into a panic by making the falsified claim that the targeted victim has missed his or her jury duty responsibility.
If you receive one of these calls telling you that your seat on the jury was empty, don't believe the caller. If you're really worried you might have accidentally missed meeting an obligation, hang up and call the court directly to ask.
How Does the Jury Duty Telephone Scam Work?
The way the jury duty scam works is a person claiming to be an officer of the Court calls the home and declares the person has failed to report to jury duty and, as a result, a bench warrant has been issued for his or her arrest. This scare tactic, designed to catch the victim off-guard, is crafted in such a way the scammer intends to hopefully surprise and cause enough fright for the victim. This way he or she will be anxious to comply to get out of trouble and avoid arrest. The scammer will continue to repeatedly tell his or her target that in order for the summons to be withdrawn, the victim needs to provide some additional personal information. They also often jump right into demanding money from their victims.
Warning Signs of a Jury Duty Scam
If you receive this call you can easily recognize this scam because the fraudster will ask for items such as your Social Security number, date of birth, and usually some other personal information. Once you've answered all the questions the calls asks, the scammer has gained the information needed to steal your identity. However, he or she might even take it a step further in order to try to get immediate financial gratification. According to an FBI agent on the case back in 2006 states, "That's when the scammer dangles a solution-a fine, payable by credit card, that will clear up the problem" (www.fbi.gov). Also, in 2016, a new variation involves the schemer calling the victim and posing as a law enforcement officer. The fraudster options PayPal debit/gift cards as another way for the call's recipient to pay the fine.
Scammers attempt to convince people they didn't show up in response to a court summons for jury duty. In reality, no summons was ever issued.
Classic Social Engineering Techniques
If you receive a call like this and are puzzled because you didn't receive a notice for jury duty, there is a probable chance the reason you never received it was because none was ever issued. This is not what the fraudster is hoping for you to realize, instead he or she is hoping you are willing to answer any and all questions in order for the warrant to be recalled.
Don’t fall for it. This is a classic social engineer tactic. The scammer's modus operandi is to instill fear by using scare tactics in order to extract personal information. This kind of scare tactic is common for social engineers who thrive on committing financial and identity theft against others.
To avoid becoming a victim of the jury duty telephone scam, it is important to know that no Court will contact you and ask for personal information over the phone. If an agency does need to contact you for any reason, you will receive an official letter from them mailed through the United States Postal Service.
What should you do if you receive a call?
- Do not give out any kind of information
- Hang up and, if you have any questions of the validity, call the Court directly by looking the number up either online or in the phone book
- Report the incident to local authorities so they can be aware of the scam's activity and warn the public
What makes it even more trickier is that many of the scammers are spoofing the phone numbers of legitimate law enforcement agencies in an attempt to look legit. While still somewhat helpful, unfortunately, caller ID is not as reliable as it once used to be.
Being forewarned is forearmed. Other reports published during the month of May include jury duty scam incidents occurring in Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Ohio, New York and North Carolina. Chances are the scam's been making the rounds in other states as well.
Beware, because the jury duty telephone scammers are still out on the prowl.
[ Related Reading: How Fraudsters Use Fake Check Scams to Rip People Off ]