District Courts warning of jury phone scams

Federal district courts across the country are warning citizens to be vigilant against jury phone scams.

The U.S. District Courts warned last week that scammers impersonating court officials or U.S. Marshals have been calling people and demanding payment of thousands of dollars in lieu of an arrest for a missed jury appearance. The U.S. Marshal Service issued a similar nationwide warning to encourage victims to report the fraudulent calls.

When a victim of a jury scam answers the phone, the scammers will claim they are court officials or U.S. Marshals with the power to perform an arrest for a missed jury summons and will demand payment via credit card over the phone or a wire transfer to avoid jail time.  To make the scam seem real, the callers may use the names of real judges, courthouse addresses or badge numbers.

However, the courts said all prospective jurors will receive their summonses via mail and will never be asked to make a payment or provide sensitive information over the phone. Similarly, the U.S. Marshals Service noted it would never ask for credit card numbers or similar information for any purpose. 

Rather, prospective jurors who disregard a summons will first be contacted by the court clerk’s office and could then be ordered to appear before a judge and explain their failure to appear. Only then would a fine be imposed.

In addition to reporting jury phone scams to a local district court office and to the U.S. Marshals Service, the courts are also encouraging citizens to report the scams to the Federal Trade Commission, which can detect patterns of fraud and report it to law enforcement.

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