The Jury Duty Scam – coming to a phone near you?

By Paul Michael on 14 August 2008 (Updated 17 September 2009) 10 comments

My wife forwarded me one of those “hey everyone, don’t fall for this” emails this morning. I get one from a friend or relative at least once a week, and usually they’re well-meaning but filled with gross inaccuracies or are just completely untrue. However, when I looked to my source for all things BS, snopes.com, I discovered this one was 100% true. It’s called the Jury Duty scam. It’s a smart, simple con that could clean you out.

This scam has been around for a while (2005), but is relatively new compared to the Nigerian email scams and other similar cons. The premise is simple. Here’s the write-up from snopes.com :

The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court and claims you’ve failed to report for jury duty. He tells you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.

Allow me to break in here for a second. That last statement is incredibly powerful because it throws you completely off guard. You’re now on the defensive, and in those situations you’re more prone to do what you can to make things right. Now, part two of the scam:

The victim will often rightly claim they never received the jury duty notification. The scammer then asks the victim for confidential information for “verification” purposes. Specifically, the scammer asks for the victim’s Social Security Number, birth date, and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information – exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.

If you live in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon or Washington State, you’re in a state where this scam has already been reported. But that doesn’t mean you’re safe from this in any other town or city.

Personally, this scam would never get to me because I know I’m ineligible for jury duty. I’m a Green Card holder, so I’d already be clued in that something was wrong. You may also be someone who would just never fall for something like this. But the point of these scams is similar to the principle of junk mail and spam. For every 99 people that don’t fall for it, 1 person does. If you have an army of people making dozens of calls every hour, you could walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars as an ID theft scammer in just one day.

What can you do? Arm yourself with knowledge.

p>First and foremost, the FBI issued a warning that states “the judicial system DOES NOT contact people telephonically and ask for personal information such as Social Security number, date of birth or credit card numbers.” The only time you will ever be called by a court system about jury duty is AFTER you have mailed back a completed questionnaire, and that is a rare occurrence.

So, if you are called out of the blue and someone is demanding your personal info, just hang up the phone. Don’t even get into a debate with these scumbags.

In fact, this is a good rule of thumb for any phonecalls that you do not solicit; NEVER give out personal information to verify records of any kind. If someone insists on “verifying” information, they should already have it…so, you can ask them to read it out and give yes or no answers. If it’s a scam, they clearly won’t have it.

Obviously, this does not apply to banks or credit card companies that YOU call, they should do an in-depth verification system before letting you have access to your accounts, with good reason.

You’d be well-advised, regardless of this scam, to keep an eye on your credit/debit cards and accounts for any unusual activity. And request a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com , you’re entitled to one from each of the credit reporting companies every 12 months. This is not to be confused with freecreditreport.com, which in my honest opinion is just a big, but perfectly legal, scam.

You can also put a fraud alert on your credit report for further safety, although there is still some debate about how this affects your credit rating. I have one on mine, I like the higher level of protection. Bottom line folks, this is a scam that really works and it’s only going to snag more people. Keep your wits about you, and have a safe day.

Other reading:

http://www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/newsmedia/05juryscam.pdf

http://www.mncourts.gov/?page=NewsItemDisplay&item=20317

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Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

The funny thing is, I am a greencard holder, too, but I still get jury summons every year.  I end up copying my Chinese passport and sending it back every time. 

Guest's picture
Deb

Wow, I've never heard of this and I live in Oregon. I just copied and pasted the post and passed it on to many friends & family. THANK YOU for the info!

Guest's picture
Richard

"If you live in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon or Washington State, you’re in a city where this scam has already been reported."

Not to be nit picky (oh heck! yes, i am) but those are states.

Carrie Kirby's picture

Thanks Paul. I think you are right -- someone calling to say you are in trouble with the law is a pretty powerful way of putting you off guard.

 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture
Zannie

Putting a fraud alert on your account will not affect your credit rating, but it is unlikely to do a damn thing to protect you from fraud. It is an advisory only to lenders; most of them ignore it. Or at least that was how I understood it when I worked at TransUnion.

Paul Michael's picture

...that when a fraud alert is put on your account, applying for credit of any kind is made much more difficult and requires more thorough checks (including calling you at a verified home number). That's what I was told by my financial advisor anyway.

Guest's picture
Zannie

That's the theory, yes. Creditors are supposed to be more thorough if you have an alert on your credit report. They usually aren't, though.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you do not show up for jury duty, you will receive a notice of FTA (in SoCalat least). It is no big deal missing jury duty, as they can always reschedule you. I work for the courts and that is how they handle it.

Guest's picture
Suz

Thanks for the heads up. I try not to be too paronoid but I also make sure to watch my credit report twice a year... so far no problems that I've not caused myself *Grin*

-Suz

Guest's picture
croatian1

Richard, what I think Paul meant is: If you are in any of those States, your City might already be getting those calls. He did not call the States, cities.

I'm in MN and a gf got a jury duty summons last winter. She was out of town for 2 weeks unexpectedly and when she got home she opened the letter and had missed the date she was supposed to respond by. Within 1 week she got a registered letter, that she had to sign for stating if she did not contact them, yes she could face jail time. When she called all she was asked by them to confirm was her name and then number on the registered letter. She was NOT asked for her SS number or credit card number. I will say in MN it is a big deal if you do miss jury duty, they will hunt you down!