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2014-10-02

Be aware of possible jury duty scammers

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Jury duty is a vital civic responsibility and should be taken seriously by all citizens. Unfortunately, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin found scammers might use it to compromise personal information and steal victims' money.
The jury duty scam begins when someone, posing as a deputy or court official, contacts the victim via telephone. The con artists will often provide names of federal judges, courtroom numbers and addresses in an attempt to make the scam believable. They will claim the victim has failed to report for jury duty. The scammer then alleges there is a warrant out for their arrest.
To avoid arrest, the victim is then instructed to pay a fine with a Green Dot Moneypak Card. Green Dot MoneyPak cards are reloadable debit cards that are widely available in stores.
In other cases, the scammer asks for the victim's confidential information for "verification" purposes. The con artist asks for the victim's social security number, birth date and sometimes credit card numbers or other private information. Facing the unexpected threat of arrest, victims are caught off guard and may be quick to part with some information to defuse the situation.
Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information in a telephone call or email according to UScourts.gov. Most contact between a federal court and a prospective juror will be through the United States mail, and any phone contact by real court officials will not include requests for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other sensitive information.
Scams where con artists use threatening tactics to get the victim to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card or wire money come in varying forms so be wary of any person who demands this type of payment.
BBB offer this advice to those who receive a scam call regarding jury duty:
• Protect personal information - Don't provide any account or other personal information. Hang up the phone.
• Protect money - Never wire transfer money or purchase a green dot card without verifying who is on the other line. These payment forms are the most commonly used because it is cannot be traced. Green Dot MoneyPak users also need to remember that anyone they share their card number with has instant access to their funds.
• When in doubt, hang up - Those who feel they may have missed jury duty, are asked to call the local county clerk's office to verify if they have been summoned.
Victims who have already been contacted by a scammer and who have already given out their personal information are urged to contact the local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office and the BBB.
For more tips, visit bbb.org.