The so-called "Jury Duty scam" is an attempt at identity theft that has been around now for any number of years. But it is still happening almost every day, so a renewed warning is in order.
As the FBI first warned America back in 2006, the jury duty scam involves a contact by phone or email that is almost impossible not to respond to.
There are a couple of variations on the same theme. The caller or the email purports to be from a staffer at the local, state or federal court saying that you have ignored an official jury summons and in doing so you have broken the law. But, says the caller or the email author, there are ways you can quickly mitigate this violation.
How can anyone ignore this kind of call? As an FBI agent noted: "The trick is putting people on the defensive, then reeling them back in with the promise of a clean slate. It’s kind of ingenious. It’s social engineering."
In one version of the scam, identity theft is the goal. The caller says maybe you have been confused with another potential juror, or maybe the jury notice you are being accused of ignoring was actually sent to the wrong address. So the caller asks for all sorts of identifying information including inevitably your address, your Social Security number and your driver's license number - for identification purposes only.
You may know that for id theft protection you should never give this kind of information out. But here you are, an innocent person being accused of violating the law by shirking jury duty. You might not think twice about giving the requested information to this 'court official.'
In this variation of the scam the victim is asked to wait a moment. They hear some computer keys being stuck, they might hear an "oh my" being uttered and the court official comes back on the line to apologize saying you have been confused with someone else on the jury roll with a similar name or address, and thus you are not at fault and please excuse the call.
Another variant on the scam seeks to separate you from your money in one call. The court official in this version says you ignored a jury summons and are in violation of the law. You can, however, erase this black mark from your record by simply paying a token fine and then you will be put back on the jury rolls and will get another summons in due course.
You are asked to provide a bank account number or a credit card number. You do so hurriedly but soon you will learn that more, perhaps much more than the token amount has been taken from you.
Ok, for good id theft protection what should you do if you receive one of these calls or emails saying you have skipped a call for jury duty? Both the FBI and the federal court system advise you to get the name of the court the caller says he or she represents, hang up, look up the phone number of the clerk's office or the jury commissioner's office of that court and then call them yourself and ask if the call you received was genuine.
I would be willing to bet you that you will be told you were almost a victim of identity theft. It is likely the person you talk with at the court will not be surprised; they have heard it all before, probably many times.
This scam is being perpetrated in states from coast to coast. The official government website www.usa.gov has compiled a list of the warnings that have been issued by courts, states and law enforcement agencies. It makes for interesting reading.