A few years ago, hundreds of Americans received phone calls from alleged court officers informing them that they been selected for jury duty. Unfortunately, the calls were a scam, and the callers were not court officers but identity thieves who used the valuable information they collected to bilk the unwitting victims out of thousands of dollars.
The callers asked for private information—social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and credit card numbers—to “verify their records.” Believing the calls were legitimate, many people willingly gave up the goods.
In another variation of the scam, the victims were informed that they had been labelled “delinquent jurors” for missing jury duty, and that bench warrants for their arrests would be issued unless they paid a hefty fine by credit card, then and there, over the phone.
According to the FBI, “The judicial system does not contact people telephonically and ask for personal information…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.”
The jury duty scam is back in circulation this year.
To protect yourself, never give out private information over the phone to unsolicited callers, no matter whom they claim to be. If someone calls you claiming to be a court officer, hang up and report the call to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is important for the call to be registered and possibly tracked back to the scammer. If you’ve fallen for the scam (you’re not alone: the scam has fooled many people), be sure to check your credit report and monitor your bank and credit card statements.
Juré Fiorillo is a criminologist and co-author of True Stories of Law & Order and True Stories of Law & Order: SVU. Her forthcoming book Great Bastards of History is due out in January 2010. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org om
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