Recently, a friend of mine received a call from a person saying that he was from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. The caller claimed that my friend had missed jury duty and would be arrested if he didn’t make a payment to the caller. This smelled fishy to my friend, so he called me.
It turns out that this is a common scam.
The concept of the scam isn’t new. In 2018, a Georgia man was indicted for running a similar scam out of his prison cell. However, according to the Better Business Bureau, these scams are occurring with increasing frequency in Georgia.
Keep reading to learn about this scam and how to protect yourself.
How Does the Scam Work?
The scam starts with a phone call. The caller claims to be from the court or a member of a local law enforcement agency. They’ve done their research, so they may give the name of a real police officer. They have even been able to “spoof” phone numbers so that the call looks like a real government phone number of your caller ID.
In many of these cases, scammers claim that:
- Victims have Failure to Appear warrants against them for missing jury duty,
- Victims have been placed in contempt of court,
- Victims’ whereabouts are being traced via monitoring systems on their cell phones.
Scammers then tell their victims that these FTA warrants can be resolved through civil or criminal processes. According to them, the criminal process involves going to jail. The civil process involves the payment of a fine. Somewhat predictably, the scammers will often ask that the fine be paid using a prepaid card.
According to a press release put out by the Fulton County Superior Court, scammers use judges’ real names to make their claims more believable.
Here are a few red flags that might put you on notice that the call you’re getting is from a scammer:
- The phone call. In most jurisdictions, communications about jury duty happen by mail. That’s not to say that you will never receive a telephone call about jury duty, but you should at least treat this as a red flag.
- The call comes in the evening. Court-related business will generally occur during regular business hours (9am to 5pm).
- You receive text messages from the person. A court would not text you about official court business.
- The person on the other end of the phone asks for personal information (like a social security number).
- They ask for your credit card/bank account information.
- They request payment in the form of a prepaid card.
- They request payment using an app like Venmo, Zelle, or Paypal.
Verifying Jury Duty
If you receive a call stating that you missed jury duty, you should first contact the courthouse where you live. The correct phone number can be located on the court’s website. Some jurisdictions, like Cobb County, have special pages on their websites dedicated to information about jury service.
If you have received a call like this and have provided information to the caller, you should monitor your bank account statements and credit reports. You should also contact the Georgia FBI Field Office at (770) 216-3000.
If you live in Fulton County and have received a jury duty-related scam call, you should also call the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department at 404-612-5129.
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to these scams, so let your older relatives know that this scam is happening. They need to be particularly vigilant.