Jurors Beware

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Watch out for scammers who prey on consumers’ unfamiliarity with courts and the jury duty process.

According to the Better Business Bureau, jury duty scams appear to be on the rise.

The scam works like this: a consumer receives a phone call or voicemail from someone claiming to be with the local police or sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office or 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 already has been issued for the consumer’s arrest.

A consumer who responds to the caller is instructed to send money to pay a fine to avoid arrest. The consumer is asked to provide a bank account number, wire money, use a cash app, or put cash on a prepaid debit card or a gift 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 or debit card number.

The call may appear legitimate with Caller ID showing a local number with police department information and an official-sounding voice on the phone. However, these red flags help consumers spot the 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 never ask for payment or personal information over the phone

• Calls never should come in the evening. Real court-related calls should come only 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

• Requests to pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card (such as MoneyPak, Venmo, iTunes, or similar cards) are almost always a sure sign of fraud

Scammers also might send threatening emails or texts, purportedly from the local court, to get a consumer to send money, provide sensitive personal information (which can lead to identity theft) or install malware.

Consumers who are concerned th