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.
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.