Scams Target Citizens with False Jury Service and Court Related Claims
The U.S. Marshals Service urges the public not to divulge personal or financial information to unknown individuals. If anyone has been victimized by fraud, they are urged to report the incident to the appropriate local police department, sheriff’s office or to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov
Scams that target citizens with false jury service or criminal charges claims prey on people’s fear, threatening arrest for a missed summons for jury service or fabricated criminal charges. These types of scams crop up with enough regularity to keep federal court personnel continually on the alert.
Recent Scams Targeting Eastern District of Texas
Some scams are perpetrated via receipt of a call, but others may arrive via text or email. Fraudsters attempt to impersonate court officials, U.S. marshals or other law enforcement officers, federal public defenders, and assistant United States attorneys. Usually, the scam is an attempt to convince the victim to pay a fine to avoid arrest or arrange for a pre-arrest bond. Some fraudsters have insisted that their victims bring cash or prepaid credit cards to the courthouse where they arranged to meet them, or to read the card account information to them over the phone. Others have demanded the deposit of electronic currency.
“The caller’s objective is to fluster people and impede their better judgment,” said Robin Blume, clerk of court for the District of South Carolina.
A court would never demand payment or sensitive information over the telephone. If a prospective juror does not appear for jury service, the juror may be required to appear before a judge, who, after hearing from the person why they did not appear for jury duty, could impose a fine, but that would never occur without a court appearance. Any person charged with a crime has due process rights that would never result in an attempt by a court official to collect money over the phone, via pre-paid card payment, or deposit of money.
“We want to make the public aware of telephonic and impersonation scams so they can avoid becoming victims,” said David Harlow, acting director of the U.S. Marshals Service. “Please be assured that the U.S. Marshals Service will never call anyone to arrange payment of fines over the phone for failure to appear for jury duty, for outstanding warrants, or for any other infraction.”
Fraudulent callers sometimes disguise their phone numbers so that they appear to be court or law enforcement numbers on the recipients’ caller ID; they also sometimes transfer victims during the calls to create the illusion that they are speaking with government offices.
“Scams are continually becoming more elaborate, making it much harder for anyone unfamiliar with the jury summons process to identify a scam,” said Jerome Grate, jury administrator for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Impersonating a federal official is a federal crime punishable by a jail terms or a fine, or a combination of the two. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of a scam should not provide the requested information and should immediately notify the clerk of court’s office of the U.S. district court in their area, as well as your local FBI office.
For more information visit the Jury Scams section of Uscourts.gov