Jury-duty scam preys on law-enforcement fears

Jury-duty scam preys on law-enforcement fears

Some scams just don’t quit. Despite running for years, this con still successfully uses threatening calls and intimidating emails to scare people into paying up. Jury-duty scams have staying power because they prey on a fear of law enforcement.

You answer the phone, and it’s someone claiming to be from the local law enforcement or judicial agency. The caller tells you that you have missed a jury-duty summons and could be arrested. They may even claim a warrant has already been issued. The caller may appear to be very legitimate with caller ID showing a police phone number and an official-sounding voice on the phone.

The scammer tells you that, fortunately, you can avoid arrest by paying a fine. The scammer asks you to wire money or put cash on a prepaid debit card and share the PIN. Of course the fine and the jury-duty summons were never real.

Like most long-running scams, jury-duty cons have a few versions, not all of which ask you for money outright. In some cases the jury-duty scam may be used to trick you into providing sensitive, personal information that can be used for identity theft. In another version scammers use email and allegedly attach your “jury summons” to the message. The file is really malware, and downloading it will infect your computer.

Be skeptical of email and unsolicited calls. Courts do not typically summon people via email, text message or phone. Unless you are involved in a case and have opted into receiving other types of communications, courts normally communicate through mail.

Pick up the phone. If you ever question whether you need to appear in court, call the appropriate judicial agency. Don’t call the number in the email, as that will likely just lead you to the scammer. Look for official websites in your jurisdiction. Be on the lookout for fake websites too.

Ignore calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency. Don't fall for it.

Beware of requests to pay via wire transfer or prepaid debit card (such as MoneyPak, iTunes or similar cards). These are almost always a sign of fraud.

Ask someone for help. BBB’s research shows that asking someone else is an important factor in reducing the chance of being scammed. Ask a family member or friend, “Does this sound right?”

Learn more about phishing scams at www.BBB.org/PhishingScam. If you’ve received a phony email for jury duty, help others avoid the same pitfall by filing a scam report at www.BBB.org/ScamTracker.

BBB’s research on why some people are more susceptible to scams is available at www.BBB.org/ExposedToScams.

Visit www.bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips and more.

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