Most of us take summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty that a new ominous scam has surfaced in the last several years. This new “jury duty” scam is the latest in a series of identity theft “phishing schemes”. Fall for it, and whammo, your identity has been stolen.
The first jury duty scam was reported in upper New York State in 2001. Since then it’s been reported in at least 13 additional states, including Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, California, Maryland, Illinois, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington State.
This ‘jury duty’ scheme might best be categorized as a “social engineering” scam and works something like this:
Con artists contact people by phone to assert that those they’ve targeted have evaded jury duty and warrants are being issued for their arrest. When the victims rightly protest that they’ve never received such jury duty notification, the scammer goes after what he really wants, (for verification purposes only, of course) which is his pigeons’ personal and financial information. Under threat of being hauled off to jail unless they succeed in straightening out this terrible mess, many people, (who would otherwise be more wary about what they reveal of their personal data), will find themselves reeling off their birth dates, social security and credit card numbers in an effort to convince their callers that the notification had never arrived, or were never meant for them in the first place.
It’s easy to see how this might work. The victims are clearly caught off guard, and are understandably upset at the prospect of an arrest warrant being issued. It preys upon people’s general unquestioning acceptance of authority and willingness to cooperate in order to extract from them sensitive information.
How to Avoid Falling Victim to ‘Jury Duty’ Scams:
Be assured that court workers will very rarely, if ever, telephone to say you’ve missed jury duty, or that they are assembling juries and need to pre-screen those who might be selected to serve on them. So dismiss as fraudulent any phone calls of this nature. Keep in mind that about the only time you would ever hear, by telephone (rather than by mail), anything having to do with jury service, would be after you’ve mailed back your completed questionnaire, and even then only rarely.
This latest scam reinforces, once again, that you should never give out bank account, social security, or credit card numbers over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call ~ whether it be to someone trying to sell you something or to someone who claims to be from a bank or government department. If such callers insist upon “verifying” such information with you, have them read the data to you from their notes, with you verifying it, rather than the other way around.
And a word to the wise ~ Carefully examine your credit card and bank account statements every month, keeping an eye peeled for unauthorized charges. If you notice anything you didn’t approve, challenge it immediately!
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