Hang Up on Jury Duty Scam

December 14, 2007 - Posted at 3:49 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- It's a new twist scammers are using to commit identity theft and the bold simplicity of it may be what makes it so effective.

The Jury Duty scam has phones ringing and victims giving out their social security numbers and birthdates in order to "clear up" a warrant out for your arrest for failing to appear for jury duty.  That's all it takes for scammers to assume your identity and empty your bank accounts.

The phone rings...the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court, claiming you've failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is out for your arrest.  When you protest that you've never received a notice, the caller says he'll need some information for verification purposes...like your social security number and birth date.

"If someone from the court notifies you about jury duty, they will never request social security number or personal identification over the phone," said prosecuting attorney Brent Davis, "In particular, if you haven't shown up for jury duty, you will be summoned to court and you may be in trouble, but they certainly won't call and ask you over the phone for your social security number or how you can get out of that trouble over the telephone."

Communities in dozens of states have issued public warnings against folks who are calling, trying to gather your personal information, pretending to be court officials. But in general, most court officials won't call you; rather communicate with prospective jury members via mail.

"It's not a joke for people to skip out on jury duty, but they certainly are not going to be called at home and asked for personal information and given an opportunity by anybody by any authority, to get out of that trouble with some sort of information they provide over the telephone," said Davis.

Many victims are caught off guard, causing some to be quick to part with information in order to defuse the situation.  But Davis warns, with enough information, scammers can easily assume your identity and empty your bank accounts.

"If somebody is inquiring about your personal information, whether it's in regard to jury duty scam or any other scam, just don't give out your personal information over the telephone because it is unlikely that that will serve any good purpose and that will be an identity theft situation," said Davis.

There have been no reports of this scam yet in Region 8.  But in recent months, communities in Illinois and Oklahoma among several other states have reported the scam.