Fraud Investigations

Beware of Fake Jury Duty Phone Calls from the Court

Mrs. Jones (not her real name) was relaxing at home reading one evening when the phone rang. A man identified himself as an officer of the county court and informed her that she had failed to report for jury duty. He went on to inform her that a warrant has been issued for her arrest and that she could face a fine or even jail time. He warned that the warrant could be executed on her at any time and she could even be hauled off to jail that very night unless she straightened the situation out. Mrs. Jones told him that she had never received the jury duty summons. The caller then asked her to verify her identity by providing her address, birth date and social security number. Shocked, upset and confused she protested that it was all a big misunderstanding and answered all of the caller’s questions, mindlessly reeling off her SSN, birth date and financial info in an effort to convince him that the summons had never arrived. He then mentioned that she could clear the whole thing up by paying a fee over the phone using a credit card.

You’ve probably figured out by now that this is a con game perpetrated on the unsuspecting Mrs. Jones. The real purpose of the call was to obtain information to steal Mrs. Jones’ identity, access her financial accounts or apply for credit cards or loans in her name. Federal, state and local courts always send jury service notices by snail mail. In fact most contact between courts and citizens is conducted by mail. Only rarely would a court representative place a phone call and then only after a person had mailed back a completed questionnaire. A court worker would never call to ask for someone’s SSN or any other private information.

According to the FBI, the scam’s bold simplicity may be what makes it so effective. Facing the unexpected threat of arrest, victims are caught off guard and may be quick to part with some information to defuse the situation. They get you scared first,” says a special agent in the Minneapolis field office who has heard the complaints. “They get people saying, ‘Oh my gosh! I’m not a criminal. What’s going on?'” That’s when the scammer dangles a solution – a fine, payable by credit card, that will clear up the problem.

A Case of Identity Theft

With enough information, scammers can assume your identity and empty your bank accounts. “It seems like a very simple scam,” the agent adds. The trick is putting people on the defensive, and then reeling them back in with the promise of a clean slate. “It’s kind of ingenious. It’s social engineering.”

The jury scam is a simple variation of the identity-theft ploys that have proliferated in recent years, as personal information and good credit have become thieves’ preferred prey, particularly on the Internet. Scammers might tap your information to make a purchase on your credit card, but could just as easily sell your information to the highest bidder on the Internet’s black market. It can be extremely difficult to recovery from identity theft on your own, and often times police can’t help, your best option if your identity has been compromised is to contact a private investigator.

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Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is a private investigator and founder of Tristar Investigation, California’s premiere detective agency. Bruce is also a media commentator for the investigation industry, featured in the New York Times, CNN, History Channel, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times and many more. You can find him on Google+ LinkedIn and YouTube.