Jury duty scams on the rise

Being picked for jury duty can be stressful. Receiving a call from someone claiming to be with the local police department or district attorney's office who says you missed jury duty and are facing arrest is downright terrifying! Reports from police departments across the country suggest that this type of fraud is again on the rise. Consumers who fear that they have missed their jury duty service are falling prey, and handing over money or sensitive personal information to con artists.

The scam works like this: a consumer receives a phone call or voice mail from someone claiming to be with their local police or sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office or the county courts. The caller states that the consumer has missed a jury duty summons and could be arrested if they don’t pay a fine. The caller may even claim that a warrant has already been issued for the consumer’s arrest.

If the consumer responds to the caller, she is instructed to send money to the caller (who is, in reality, a scammer) to pay a fine in order to avoid arrest. The consumer is asked to provide a bank account number, wire money, or put cash on a prepaid debit card like a Green Dot MoneyPak or similar card and send it to the scammer. In some cases, the scam may be used to trick a consumer into providing sensitive personal information such as a Social Security Number, date of birth, or credit card or debit card number.

This scam preys on consumers’ fear of law enforcement and unfamiliarity with how the jury duty summons process works. The caller may appear to be very legitimate -- with Caller ID showing a local number with police department information and an official-sounding voice on the phone. To help consumer see through these tricks, here are some red flags that consumers can use to spot these scams:

  • Courts almost exclusively contact consumers about jury duty or missed jury duty by postal mail, not by phone or email;
  • Court officials or police departments will never shake you down for payment or personal information over the phone;
  • If the call comes in the evening or at night, it’s a red flag. Real court-related calls should only come during normal business hours;
  • If the caller claims to be part of a “warranty amnesty program,” it’s likely a scam. Such programs typically require consumers with outstanding warrants (such as for failure to appear for a court date) to reach out to the courts on their own;
  • Asks to pay via wire transfer or prepaid debit card (such as MoneyPak, Reloadit or similar cards) are almost always a sure sign of fraud.

Concerned that you may have missed a jury duty summons or court date?

Contact your local courts directly by looking up the phone number online or in the phone book and calling them yourself.

You can listen to an example of a typical type of jury duty scam call at this link. Consumers should be aware that the jury duty scam is not exclusive to phone calls, either. Scammers have been known to send threatening emails, purportedly from the local court, in an effort to get a consumer to send money, provide sensitive personal information (which can lead to identity theft) or install malware.

Consumers who have received jury duty scam calls or emails should report them to Fraud.org.