FRAUD RESOURCE CENTER
Getting called for jury service is a routine fact of life for most Americans. But if that summons to civic duty comes in the form of a phone call or email, be suspicious: It’s probably a jury duty scam.
In this long-running form of government impostor scam, crooks posing as court or law enforcement officials, such as a U.S. marshal or sheriff’s officer, claim you’ve failed to appear for jury duty and face imminent arrest. The only way out is to pay an immediate fine via credit card, gift card or money transfer.
Other fraudsters will ask for personal information such as your Social Security number and date of birth, supposedly so they can check court records but really so they can steal your identity.
Some aim for maximum menace, trying to browbeat you into complying. Others play good cop, sympathetically promising to help you clear your name and recoup the payment down the road.
In either case, the verdict is the same: You’re being scammed.
Real summonses for jury duty and notices that you’ve skipped it come in the mail. No court official will demand payment or personal information from you over the phone. And if you genuinely have missed jury duty, no fine will be imposed until you have a chance to appear in court to explain your failure to appear.
Federal court officials in Georgia said victims have paid as much as $13,000 to jury duty scammers threatening them with jail time. Ironically, people in prison have carried out some of the biggest such cons in recent years, using contraband cellphones and employing caller ID “spoofing” and other easily accessible tech tools that make it seem as if they’re calling from a local courthouse, police department or sheriff’s office.
- You receive a phone call or email claiming you’ve missed jury duty and must pay an immediate fine to avoid arrest.
- The person contacting you demands personal or financial information or payment by wire, gift card or reloadable debit card.
- Do hang up if someone claiming to be a U.S. marshal or court official calls you out of the blue with a jury duty warning.
- Do know how courts actually handle jury matters. Genuine communications about jury service come by mail, not phone or email, and court officials will not ask you for sensitive information.
- Do get in touch with the relevant federal, state or local court to see if you have an actual jury duty problem. Search online for contact information and only call numbers you find on official websites.
- Don’t give out personal or financial information over the phone or by email to a purported court official.
- Don’t respond to emails or call back numbers in robocalls or voicemails about missed jury service. Look up and call the official number for a court or law enforcement agency to see if it has attempted to contact you.
- Don’t pay a supposed fine by wire or gift card. These types of payments are hard to trace or reverse.
- Don’t assume a call is legitimate because caller ID says it comes from a court office or law enforcement agency. Scammers use spoofing technology to trick caller ID.
- Report suspected jury duty scams to the U.S. Marshals Service office for your area and to local law enforcement. You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or at 877-382-4357.
- Contact the U.S. district court for your area to find out if a communication about federal jury duty is legitimate.
- Call the court clerk’s office for your city or county for inquiries about jury service in that court.
Published February 5, 2020
More From the Fraud Resource Center