Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Scam: Identity thieves trick the unwary into revealing their personal details by telling them they've failed to report for jury duty and warrants for their arrest are being issued.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2005]
Origins: This helpful heads-up began appearing in inboxes in August 2005. While this particular attempt to coerce information from potential identity theft victims is not new, it is real. In a number of U.S. states, con artists have been contacting people by phone to assert those they've targeted have evaded jury duty and announce warrants are being issued for their arrest. When the about-to-be-duped protest they never received such notifications, that surely a mistake has been made, the sharpies go after what they really want, which is their pigeons' personal and financial information. Under threat of being hauled off in paddy wagons unless they succeed in straightening out this terrible mess, many folks who would otherwise be more wary about what they reveal of their personal data will find themselves reeling off their birth dates and social security and credit card numbers in an effort to convince their callers the notifications that never arrived actually went to other addresses or were never meant for them in the first
However these calls conclude — whether those who have been approached are left with the impression they've failed to show up for jury duty and are still expected to discharge their civic duties, or that a big misunderstanding has now been resolved — their true purpose has been accomplished: the scam artists now have the information necessary to open accounts or charge goods in the names of their victims.
The scheme outlined in the message quoted above might be categorized as a "social engineering" scam
On 22 August 2005, the Minnesota Judicial Branch issued a warning about the bogus calls. The Minnesota Judicial Branch points out its courts always use the mail to send jury service summons, communicating by telephone only after prospective jurors have returned completed summons information forms.
In New Mexico, Rep. Tom Udall has been warning citizens about the scam. As he points out, Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information over the telephone. Most contact between a federal court and a private citizen is conducted by mail.
The Superior Court of California has posted an alert on its web site, warning that identity thieves posing as court officials have been trying to get confidential information through phone calls about jury duty. Once again, callers have been telling potential victims they failed to report for jury duty, then demanding their Social Security numbers. While court personnel may occasionally call people at home, "We never ask for Social Security numbers or personal identifying information," said Marita Ford, chief deputy executive officer for Riverside Superior Court.
In September 2005, in an effort to alert the public nationwide about the scam, the FBI issued a press release which explained that "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" and those so contacted should "not provide any personal or confidential information to these individuals."
Though the 'jury duty' information-gleaning scam has been garnering attention in 2005, it is not new. In 2004, residents of Franklin County, Ohio, were hit by this scam. At least five people called the Franklin County Municipal Court in September 2004 to ask where they were to report for duty after someone telephoned to obtain personal information. In Ohio, as in Minnesota, jury summonses are sent by mail and court workers do not call potential jurors to ask for Social Security numbers or dates of birth.
In February 2004, the scam was active in Charles County, Maryland. Once again, the fraud came to the attention of authorities via residents who had been contacted by phone afterwards asking the County Clerk about the attempts to wheedle personal information from them. They too had been asked for birth dates and Social Security numbers, that time by callers who claimed such intelligences were needed to assemble a pool of jurors for selection in upcoming trials. The Charles County Circuit Court does not telephone residents who are selected for jury duty. Potential jurors are sent notices in the mail.
In 2001 the Erie County Commissioner of Jurors reported someone in that area had been staging telephone scams about jury duty in Chautauqua, Seneca, and Jefferson counties, seeking information about home addresses and bank accounts allegedly "for reimbursement purposes." Targets of that fraud were being told by the swindlers attempting to deceive them that this information was required for the purpose of directly depositing their
Though the 'jury duty' information phishing scheme is not new, it has been heavily put to use around the U.S. in August 2005. Be wary of any calls of this nature and refuse to give out your personal information.
Barbara "verdict: not foolish" Mikkelson
How to Avoid Falling Victim to 'Jury Duty' Scams:
Last updated: 9 April 2007
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