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2016-05-05

Tips to avoid jury service scams

Special to the Courier

As Texas celebrates Jury Appreciation Week the first week in May, the State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee wants to educate the public on how to avoid jury duty scams.
Jury Appreciation Week is dedicated to honoring those who give of their time to participate in this county’s judicial system. The Jury Service Committee wants residents to be aware that, across the state, people are being targeted by phone calls and emails, threatening them with prosecution for failing to comply with jury service in federal or state courts. These calls and emails are fraudulent and not connected with United States or Texas state courts.
During a typical scam call, victims are told that a warrant was issued for their arrest because they failed to appear for jury duty. The caller then asks the victim to “verify” personal information, such as their date of birth and Social Security number.
In other cases, scammers go further and ask that the victim pay a fine over the phone to avoid arrest. Victims are pressured to provide a credit card number or other payment information.
According to a recent notice from the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Texas, the jury duty scam is the latest in a series of identity theft schemes in which criminals get people to reveal personal information over the phone. Victims are often caught off guard and, given the nature of the call, provide the information, the Better Business Bureau reported.
To help protect Texas residents, the State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee compiled the following tips from federal and state courts, the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports. Remember:
• Courts do not call about jury duty - Legitimate jury notices will come by mail – even if a citizen missed his assigned time to report to jury duty.
• Courts will not ask for personal information over the phone – Courts also do not require citizens to provide sensitive information such as Social Security or credit card numbers by phone or email.
• Scammers can mask their identity - Be aware that criminals may use software to disguise their phone numbers and make it appear that their calls are originating from a local courthouse or police department. Don’t trust caller ID!
• Courts will not call asking for money – Citizens who receive a call from someone claiming to be a court official asking for money for missing jury duty are advised to hang up and report the scam to the local police department.
Anyone who receives a call or email of the type described above should report it to local law enforcement at 830-796-3771. Any questions about jury service should be directed to Bandera County Clerk Candy Wheeler at 830-796-3332 or 198th District Clerk Tammy Kneuper at 830-796-4606.