Nationwide Jury Duty Scam Reported Throughout Massachusetts
The Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) has received complaints from citizens who have been exposed to a jury duty scam that is designed to defraud victims of money or personal information. The OJC’s investigation reveals that this is a nationwide scam that has been widely reported in the Western and Southern United States, and is now being reported in the Mid-Atlantic region as well. Massachusetts is the first New England location to receive complaints.
There are several common features to the scam:
First, the caller identifies himself as an officer, often a supervisor, in the local sheriff’s department. Several complainants in Massachusetts and elsewhere report that the caller identifies himself as “Major Paul Stevens.”
Second, the caller may “spoof” the local sheriff’s phone number, in such a way that the victim’s Caller ID indicates the call is coming from the sheriff’s department when in fact it is not. Alternatively, the caller may give a phone number or address that actually belongs to a court or law enforcement agency, causing the victim who checks the information to believe that the call is genuine.
Third, the caller informs the victim that the victim has missed jury duty and will be arrested unless a fine is paid. The victim is instructed to purchase a money card, often a “MoneyPak” or “Green Dot” card, and provide the caller with the authorization code. These cards are the equivalent of cash, and once the code is provided to the caller, the money is claimed by the scammer and cannot be recovered.
Alternatively, the caller may claim that someone close to the victim, such as a spouse or child, has failed to perform jury duty and will soon be arrested. When the victim protests that the family member has not missed jury duty, the caller asks for a Social Security Number or other personal information to confirm that the correct person is scheduled for arrest.
People should never provide personal information or financial authorizations over the phone. The OJC never contacts jurors by phone. Notices are always sent through mail and multiple warnings, from both the OJC and the courts, are sent over a period of months or even years before an arrest warrant or fine would be issued. Jurors who have received a Delinquency Notice or an Application for Complaint are instructed to contact the Office of Jury Commissioner to resolve their delinquency either by serving or proving a legitimate disqualification. Only a judge can order a fine and collection would never take place over the phone.
Anyone who receives a call demanding money to resolve a warrant or failure to perform jury service should contact their local sheriff’s office or the Office of Jury Commissioner at 617-422-5860. Information is also available on Massachusetts Attorney General’s webpage at http://www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-information/scams-and-identity-theft or the Federal Trade Commission’s webpage on identity theft at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0277-create-identity-theft-report.