Some fraud schemes refuse to die. Jury duty scams existed long before phishing, malware and other cybercrime methods became synonymous with identity theft. Yet just this month, the U.S. Marshals Service issued a fraud advisory about this old-school con that’s enjoying a resurgence.
Here’s how jury duty scams work: Perpetrators posing as court officers, U.S. Marshals and other members of law enforcement call unsuspecting victims, warning them that they’re about to be arrested because they haven’t reported for jury duty. When the targets assert they haven’t been notified that they’ve been selected, the scammers ask for information to “verify their records.”
The information the scammers want, of course, is a victim’s Social Security number and date of birth. Some go a step further and request bank account information, claiming they need an account routing number and other details to facilitate the direct deposit of jury checks.
Alternatively, scammers tell victims that they can pay a fine in lieu of arrest. They request payment via a prepaid debit or gift card and ask the victim to read the card number over the phone. In some cases, crooks ask victims to deposit cash into a bitcoin ATM. Both methods ensure that the funds are unrecoverable once they’re transferred.
Know the facts
The truth is, courts virtually never call prospective jurors — even those who don’t report as scheduled. Most courts rely on the U.S. postal system for follow-ups and they never ask for confidential personal information.
Unfortunately, many people are caught off guard by this scam. Disconcerted to learn that they may be arrested for evading jury duty, even those who ordinarily would be cautious about providing personal information over the phone may give the callers what they want.
Remember that the spiel doesn’t matter. What’s important is that bogus jury duty calls are the same as any other telephone scam. You should never give confidential information or transfer funds to unverified callers; even when threatened with arrest.
Report and verify
If you think you’ve been scammed by a con artist posing as a court or other official, report it to your local FBI office or the Federal Trade Commission. And if you’re unsure about whether you really do need to report for jury duty, contact your local courthouse.