'Jury duty' phone scam makes the rounds

Aundraya Ruse
August 27, 2012

They're at it again. As soon as consumers start to pick up on scam artists' tricks, the fraudsters devise another way to steal personal information. This time, it's a phone call saying you've missed jury duty -- and you could go to jail.

According to a press release from the office of the attorney general in West Virginia, a telephone scam has come into circulation throughout the state. The scam involves tricking people into thinking they have missed jury duty.

 The targeted consumers reported that an automated message claims to be from a federal or state court, and tells them that there is a warrant out for their arrest. The victims are then told they can evade jail time by paying a fee over the phone using their credit cards.

Attorney General Darrell McGraw warns consumers against giving out personal information over the phone or internet, including dates of birth, social security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other personal account numbers. Jury duty matters are always handled by mailed letters, not over telephone, the release says.

"Do not be threatened by someone who is demanding your personal information," McGraw said. "Never offer information. Always verify the identity of the person on the other end of the telephone. Remember that scammers will typically just hang up if confronted or threatened with a call to the police or attorney general."

A similar scam has also reached South Dakota, where consumers, particularly those in Hanson County, are receiving phone calls from callers pretending to be state or local officials. You owe money, they say, and threaten jail time if the consumer does not provide credit card information. "Government entities do not conduct business in this manner," Hanson County Sheriff Randy Bartlett says in a joint  release  with South Dakota Attorney General Marty J. Lackley.

In each case, the warning is the same: Do not provide personal identifying information over the phone unless you initiate the call.

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