Jury Duty and Identity Theft
Let's face it, we've all done it. A jury duty summons arrives in the mail and you either ignore the notice or immediately try to come up with an excuse to get out of it. Usually, you end up begrudgingly attending and sometimes you get lucky and you're excused.
But what if you get a phone call from a jury coordinator who claims that you have an outstanding arrest warrant for evading jury duty? Whether you've never received a summons, were excused or decided to ignore it, the caller will insist that in order to cancel the arrest warrant, they'll have to verify your identity through your social security number, birth date, credit card details and other personal information.
This is when the scam hits home. At the thought of something as serious as an arrest warrant, many people will immediately panic and give out the requested information. After all, who would want to argue with a member of the US Justice system? But once the caller has this information, they're just seconds away from stealing your identity.
The major flaw in this scam is the fact that no government office would ever request your social security number over the phone. Many people have knowledge of this, but once put under pressure, it's easy to react without thinking. That's why the FBI is calling this growing identity theft scam one of the most successful for thieves. Hundreds of people in several states have fallen for this dangerous hoax, and the list is growing.
To note is that US courts almost never make house calls and instead will use snail mail for most correspondences. Which is why a phone call to your home should be immediately flagged as suspicious. And on top of that, if they ask you personal questions, then you have every reason to be convinced that this is probably not a legitimate call and one you should dismiss immediately.
If you're still unsure if the call is real or fake – some callers can be truly convincing – then you shouldn’t give out information over the phone. Instead, contact your local courthouse to see if they've been making calls to residents or visit them in person to get the real story.
If you’ve received one of these jury duty scam calls, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, don’t give out any personal information! Secondly, report the call. The US District court office in your area is a good place to start. If you’ve given out information and believe your identity has been compromised, then contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT. If you’ve given out your social security number, then contact the Social Security Administration or the office of the Inspector General.
What's the rule of thumb in all of this? Whenever personal information is requested over the phone, proceed with caution. If your instinct tells you something isn't quite right, then you're probably onto something. Stop right there and hang up.