By now, almost all seniors living in the US have been summoned to jury duty, and though it is not everyone’s favorite thing, it is still a vital part of society, which is exactly why jury scams are so common. Even if we have not served on a jury, we all know that skipping or ignoring a summons is likely to have consequences.
But how many of us know what those consequences are? Often people don’t know the consequences of skipping out on jury duty because rarely would anyone of us do something of that nature. Unfortunately, criminals use our lack of knowledge regarding skipping jury duty against us, often employing fear tactics to get what they want.
Criminals know that many seniors have a healthy respect for both law enforcement and the government. And jury duty scammers use this knowledge against us. Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed with fear when an “official” is threatening to arrest us?
The good news is there are ways to identify and avoid jury duty scams easily. This article will discuss what jury duty scams look like and the red flags to identify them.
What do Jury Duty Scams Look Like?
Jury duty scams come in a few different forms. The scam will start with either a phone call or an email from a person claiming to be:
- A Police Officer
- US Marshall
- Court Official
- Judicial Agency Official
The caller or email will address you by first and last name, adding to the scam’s appearance of legitimacy.
Callers will play one of two roles, the threatening official or the sympathetic agent looking to help you avoid jail time.
The most common scam will accuse you of failing to appear or respond to an earlier jury summons. Often there will claim that there is a warrant out for your arrest, which can be resolved quickly by paying a fine.
The caller or email will often provide legitimate sounding credentials or identification, such as badge number, address to the real sheriff’s office or courthouse, or even use a valid employee’s name.
The second scam that is commonly used is again in the form of an email or caller; however, they request verification of personal information. The con artist states they need to verify your information, either for a missed or upcoming jury duty summons.
5 Ways to Identify a Jury Duty Scam
Taking the time to learn how to identify these scams is the number one way to avoid falling victimt to them.
When you receive a phone call, and the caller ID identifies the phone number as originating from an official office such as the sheriff’s office or courthouse, most of us would be inclined to believe what we read.
Unfortunately, scammers have found a way to spoof phone numbers, making them look like they are coming from a legitimate office, so we can no longer trust in caller ID 100%. Many scams take advantage of the caller ID trick, including Social Security scams and IRS scams.
Also, criminals using this scam to steal your money will often leave you a voicemail or use a robocall. Just because they provided, a phone number does not mean it is real.
So, how do you know if the call is genuine if you can’t trust the caller ID? The number one way is that if you truly failed to appear for jury duty, you would receive a notification card in the mail.
The notice card would make a statement such as:
FAILURE TO APPEAR NOTICE: Our records indicate you failed to appear as directed for jury duty on the above-stated date. SECOND SUMMONS NOTICE: You must immediately call the jury duty office at 555-5555 to reschedule your jury service. Failure to contact the office may result in additional action being brought against you by this Court.
If you receive a phone call from someone claiming you have missed jury duty, hang up immediately, then call your local law enforcement or the Clerk of Court’s office of the US District Court.
Remember you will never get a phone call if you missed a jury duty summons.
Emails will make the same type of claims as phone calls, but instead offer a link or phone number for you to contact them immediately.
Many jury duty scams request you to click on a link that will download malware into your computer. Malware is a way for criminals to steal your personal information without your knowledge.
Other email scams will direct you to a valid looking website and request your input personal information such as date of birth, Social Security number, and address, which is just another way for them to steal your identity.
If you receive an email, report it immediately. Do not click on any link or call any number.
Also, you should check the sender’s email address. These emails sent by scammers will have an email address that looks very obscure. Scammers use the free email addresses and frequently use a series of numbers and letters that make no sense. Additionally, if the email were from the government, the email address would end in “.gov.”
Another tell-tale sign it’s a scam is that the caller will pressure you to take immediate action. They will tell you that they will send law enforcement to arrest you at once if you do not pay immediately.
They may even request you stay on the phone until you pay them over the phone, even if they are requesting you purchase a gift card to pay them. The criminal may say they need you to stay on the phone to track your whereabouts and ensure you are not fleeing the city.
Regardless if they are claiming to be from a state or federal level, real callers will not request payment or arrest you for failing to acknowledge the first jury request.
If you did miss the original summons, the court would allow you to explain your lack of compliance before taking any action.
If you receive a call or email requesting immediate action, report it as soon as possible. Also, remember, never click on any link in these emails; many malware programs only require you to click on the link to get access to your computer.
Threats and Intimidation
If you miss jury duty, the courts and law enforcement will not use threats or intimation tactics to get your money or personal information. If you receive a call and the person starts badgering you about missing jury duty, hang up immediately.
These calls will not start with threats; they will only start using that strategy if you question them or refuse to pay them.
These callers are professionals. They know how to play on your fears and emotions. While it makes sense if an official calls you that you would at least hear them out, that is how they worm their way in.
Hang up and report the caller.
Wire Transfer, Pre-Paid Debit Cards, and Gift Cards
If you owe the government money, regardless if it is on a local or federal level, they will never ask for pre-paid debit cards, wire transfers, or gift cards. Some scammers will claim that their systems are down, and using these methods is the only way to avoid more fines and jail time.
If you are ever asked for payment in these forms from any government agency regardless of their claims, it is a scam. Criminals use these payment methods because they cannot be reversed or traced.
These scams are serious. Some seniors have lost more than $10,000 in these scams, and worst of all, they cannot recoup this loss after realizing that they’re victims of a scam.
Who to Report Jury Duty Scams To
If you have been contacted by email or phone regarding a missed jury summons, you must immediately report it. You can report these cons to the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court and the Federal Trade Commissions.
For the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court, you can find your local office on their website, Federal Court Finder.
For the Federal Trade Commission office you can report it online at ReportFraud.FTC.Gov.