Scammers threaten arrest tied to jury duty

BALTIMORE - When it shows up in the mail, you cringe.  Although jury duty isn't exactly fun, ditching it on purpose could get you in trouble.  Scammers know that and they're using that fact to scare people into sharing personal information.

The idea of sitting in court listening to hour after hour of testimony might make anybody look for excuses.  But it's your civic responsibility and the court is counting on you to show up.  Scammers know that, so they're using jury duty in their latest scheme.

According to Deanna Booker with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware the schemers call at night, claiming they work for the courthouse and that you're going to be arrested for not showing up for jury duty.  But Booker says, "It's just an identity thief trying another ruse, another way to steal our information."

The CCCS experts say they can get that information if you tell the caller you weren't called for duty.  In that situation, it's likely the scammer will ask you to verify personal information, even credit card numbers.  Booker says, "It sounds official and it sounds like it's somebody in authority and we're wired to respond to folks in that capacity.

But these are scammers playing a role on the phone.  To keep from getting scammed in this way Booker says it's important to remember that jury notices or summons are typically sent by mail.  If you miss your date or if the court needs to communicate with you, the clerk's office would likely call during business hours.

Booker says court officials also don't ask for things like your Social Security number or bank accounts.  And if you've really done something that warranted an arrest, Booker says, "They're not going to call you first, so that's something I want people to be aware of.  If you get this call and they say they're coming to arrest you, nobody's going to give you a heads up."

If you get one of these phone calls, immediately hang up.  Don't provide any personal information over the phone.  Instead, independently look up the phone number for your local courthouse and contact them just to check if you've missed a potential date.

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