This story was first published on October 15, 2005. For more current information about this scam, refer to the following reports:
Circulating message warns that scammers are committing identity theft by phoning potential victims and threatening them with prosecution for failing to report for jury duty unless they reveal sensitive personal information.
The claims in the message are true. Authorities in the US began warning people about such scam attempts back in 2005. Reports of the scam continue to appear in US news publications. Court officials will never make unsolicited phone calls to citizens demanding that they immediately divulge sensitive personal and financial information. If you receive such a call, do not give the caller any personal information. Just hang up.
JURY DUTY SCAMPlease pass this on to everyone in your email address book. It is spreading fast so be prepared should you get this call.Most of us take those summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced. Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS.In this con, someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn’t show up for jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.
If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers. Give out any of this information and bingo! Your identity just got stolen.
The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.
Jury Duty ScamHere’s a new twist scammers are using to commit identity theft: the jury duty scam. Here’s how it works:The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court and claims you’ve failed to report for jury duty. He tells you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.The victim will often rightly claim they never received the jury duty notification. The scammer then asks the victim for confidential information for “verification” purposes.
Specifically, the scammer asks for the victim’s Social Security number, birth date, and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information — exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.
So far, this jury duty scam has been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.
It’s easy to see why this works. The victim is clearly caught off guard, and is understandably upset at the prospect of a warrant being issued for his or her arrest. So, the victim is much less likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential information.
In reality, court workers will never call you to ask for social security numbers and other private information. In fact, most courts follow up via snail mail and rarely, if ever, call prospective jurors.
Action: Never give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information when you receive a telephone call. This jury duty scam is the latest in a series of identity theft scams where scammers use the phone to try to get people to reveal their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information.
It doesn’t matter *why* they are calling — all the reasons are just different variants of the same scam.
Protecting yourself is simple: Never give this info out when you receive a phone call
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Around August 2005 an email message began circulating that warned recipients about an identity theft scam involving jury duty. Sometime later, a differently worded version of the warning also began circulating. Later versions circulate via social media websites. The information contained in the warning messages is factual.
According to the warnings, a scammer posing as a court official may telephone a potential victim claiming that he or she failed to appear for jury duty and that an arrest warrant has been issued. The scammer then attempts to trick the victim into revealing sensitive personal information such as a Social Security number, date of birth and other personal details. If the victim is coerced into revealing enough personal information, the scammer can then steal the person’s identity.
In some versions of the scam, the criminal tells victims that they can resolve the situation and avoid arrest by paying an immediate fine via credit card. In this way, the scammer is able to procure the victim’s credit card details.
Both the FBI and the U.S. Courts issued warnings about the scam in 2005. A US Courts News Release from August 2005 confirms the information included in the messages:
In various parts of the United States, citizens are being targeted by phone calls and threatened with prosecution for failing to comply with jury service in federal or state courts.
In the calls, the threat of a fine for shirking jury service is used to coerce those called into providing confidential data, potentially leading to identity theft and fraud. These calls are not from real court officials.
Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. Mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for social security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information.
A June 2006 article on the FBI website also warns US citizens about the scam, noting:
The phone rings, you pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You say you never received a notice. To clear it up, the caller says he’ll need some information for “verification purposes”-your birth date, social security number, maybe even a credit card number.
This is when you should hang up the phone. It’s a scam.
Jury scams have been around for years, but have seen a resurgence in recent months. Communities in more than a dozen states have issued public warnings about cold calls from people claiming to be court officials seeking personal information. As a rule, court officers never ask for confidential information over the phone; they generally correspond with prospective jurors via mail.
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.
With enough information, scammers can assume your identity and empty your bank accounts.
Eight years after initial warnings about the scam began circulating, incidents continue to be reported.
In this scam, the fraudster attempts to capitalise on a potential victim’s natural desire to protect him or herself from a wrongful conviction. Also, average law-abiding citizens are perhaps a little more willing to comply with requests from someone they perceive as a government or legal official. Court officials will certainly not make unsolicited phone calls to citizens demanding that they divulge sensitive personal and financial information. If you receive such a call, do not give the caller any personal information of any kind.
Identity theft related telephone scams are not new nor are they confined to the Jury Duty ploy described above. In a similar telephone scam, fraudsters attempt to obtain CVV2/CVC2 security numbers by phoning credit card holders and posing as security staff. In fact, scammers have used a variety of tactics to trick people into revealing their personal details.
Be wary of any unsolicited phone call in which the caller requests sensitive personal information. It is highly unlikely that any government organisation or legitimate company will request information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or banking details via an unsolicited telephone call.
An effective strategy for dealing with a suspicious telephone call is to:
- Ask for the caller’s name and department details and then terminate the call.
- Find a legitimate contact number for the organisation via a telephone directory or other means. (Don’t use a contact number provided by the caller).
- Call the organisation and ask to speak to the original caller by name.
If the call was a scam, this tactic should prevent the fraudster from stealing your personal information. If the call turns out to be legitimate, you will still have the opportunity to deal with the issue as required.