Jury duty is a civic responsibility for U.S. citizens that enables the courts to serve justice in a fair and efficient manner.
Unfortunately, some scammers are using jury duty as a cover for targeting innocent victims. The scammers rely on the victims’ limited information about the process to convince them that they have committed a crime. Sadly, the scammers are often successful at pulling off their ruse.
How the scam plays out
Like so many other scams, the jury duty ruse begins with an urgent phone call or email. The scammer impersonates a court or law enforcement official, such as a U.S. marshal or a sheriff’s officer, and claims the victim has failed to show up in court for jury duty. They threaten the victim with immediate arrest unless they pay a hefty fine via credit card, prepaid debit card or money transfer. Any money the victim pays goes directly into the scammer’s pockets.
The scammer will sometimes also ask for personal information, like a Social Security number, for the alleged purpose of checking court records. Of course, the scammer will only use this information to steal the victim’s identity.
Whichever way the scam plays out, the story about a missed jury duty summons is completely fabricated and the victim is being scammed.
How to spot the scam
Technology has made it more challenging to spot a scam that plays out over the phone or by email. Jury duty scammers often use sophisticated devices to spoof the Caller ID and make it appear as if they’re actually calling from the courthouse or the police department. Emails can also appear to be sent from a legitimate source. Fortunately, with some basic information, you can learn to spot jury duty scams and protect yourself from being the next victim.
Here’s what you need to know about jury duty summonses:
- Failure to appear for jury duty is not grounds for immediate arrest.
- Federal courts do not require anyone to provide sensitive information, like Social Security or credit card numbers, over the phone.
- Jury duty summonses and notices about failure to appear for a court date are sent through the USPS mail.
- Citizens are not required to pay a fine for missing jury duty without first being given the opportunity to explain themselves in court.
- Court officials will never demand payment over the phone or via specific means.
- Protect yourself from scams
It’s important to practice basic safety measures when on the phone and while online. Here’s how you can protect yourself from jury duty scams and similar cons:
- Never share personal or financial information over the phone or by email to an unverified party.
- Don’t respond to emails or voicemails about missed jury duty service.
- Never pay an alleged fine using a prepaid gift card or money transfer. It is nearly impossible to trace and reverse these transactions.
- Don’t let an authentic-looking Caller ID fool you into believing a caller is who they claim to be. When in doubt, call a court official yourself instead of engaging with a suspicious caller.
If you’ve been targeted
If you believe you’re being targeted for a jury duty scam, you can take action to prevent being victimized further.
First, reach out to relevant federal, state or local courts to verify that you have not actually missed a jury duty summons. They will likely confirm your suspicions about the scam.
Next, do not engage with the scammer. If the scammer left a callback number, ignore it. Delete all emails from the scammer and mark them as spam.
Finally, notify your local courts and law enforcement agencies in your area. You can let your friends know to beware of the circulating scam as well.
Jury duty is a civic responsibility for most Americans. Don’t let scammers use it as a cover to trick you out of your money. Stay alert and stay safe!