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Jury Duty Scam

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Forwarded alert warns of a 'new' identity theft scam wherein potential victims are falsely notified that they've failed to appear for jury duty and must supply personal info for verification.

Description: Forwarded email
Circulating since: Aug. 2005
Status: True (see details below)

Example #1:
Email contributed by Donald D., Nov. 20, 2008:

Subject: FW: Jury Duty scam

This has been verified by the FBI (their link is also included below). Please 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 summonses for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of fraud has surfaced.

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. Give out any of this information and bingo; your identity was just stolen.

The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma , Illinois , and Colorado . This (swindle) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they are with the court system. The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.

Example #2:
Email contributed by F. Thompson, Aug. 29, 2005:

Fw: Scam

Here'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.

Analysis: True. The above texts are reasonable approximations of actual fraud warnings issued by the Better Business Bureau and law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. beginning in August 2005. According to government officials, the scam is on the rise again in 2011.

An FBI statement describes the jury duty scam as follows:

The public needs to be aware that individuals identifying themselves as U.S. court employees have been telephonically contacting citizens and advising them that they have been selected for jury duty. These individuals ask to verify names and Social Security numbers, then ask for credit card numbers. If the request is refused, citizens are then threatened with fines.

The judicial system does not contact people telephonically and ask for personal information such as your Social Security number, date of birth or credit card numbers. If you receive one of these phone calls, do not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals. This is an attempt to steal or to use your identity by obtaining your name, Social Security number and potentially to apply for credit or credit cards or other loans in your name. It is an attempt to defraud you.

If you receive such a call, hang up. If you've already been victimized in this fashion and fear you may have given out personal information to criminals, contact your local FBI field office immediately.

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Sources and further reading:

Officials Warn Against Jury Duty ID Theft Scheme
Sun Sentinel, 11 February 2011

Don't Fall for Jury Duty Scam
SouthCoastToday.com, 21 May 2009

Police Issue Alert About Jury Duty Scam
First Coast News, 12 October 2005

FBI: Telephone Fraud Involving Jury Duty
FBI press release, 28 September 2005

Last updated: 02/22/11

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