One of the most commonly overlooked types of phone scams is the jury duty scam. Recently, there have been a number of cases in Tennessee of this phone scam threatening residents. This problem isn't just happening in Tennessee though, as reports of these types of calls demanding Americans pay fines or face jail time affect millions.
Recent victims of this scam report being contacted by local Tennessee phone numbers and the caller claimed to be from the sheriff's office. Using caller ID spoofing these scammers are able to make their threats believable by spoofing the number of the victim's local police or sheriff's department (or the county clerk's office). Here's how to avoid being the next victim.
Although these calls may seem believable at first, don't trust them. Whenever you get a call from someone saying that you missed jury duty and that you need to pay a fine, keep these three things in mind:
- The courts (district, state, and federal) will never request personal information from you over the phone. Once you report for jury duty you may need to fill out a questionnaire or some paperwork, but this will never be asked of you over the phone. If any unsolicited caller asks for your social security number, place of work, home address, or birthdate, hang up immediately.
- Notice of jury duty will always be delivered by U.S. mail. If you're called to serve on a jury you'll receive notice via U.S. mail with instructions on when and where you must report for duty. If you feel that there may be a chance that you have lost your jury duty information then you should contact your local federal district court directly.
- If you fail to respond to a jury summons or show up to jury duty you could be fined or face jail time, but you will be sent an official summons from court if this happens. It is against the law to miss jury duty without having a valid reason, and you could have to pay a fine or even go to jail if you are found to be in civil contempt of the court by a judge. Before this ever happens you will first be given a hearing date in court, and a judge will decide if you are guilty. You will never, under any circumstances, be called and demanded to pay a fine without prior notice.
The best ways to protect yourself from the jury duty phone scam are to keep these three things in mind, pay attention to local news reports regarding scams in your community, and hang up if anyone says they're calling from the local or federal court about failure to report for jury duty. If you do receive a jury summons in the mail, don't ignore it.
Jury duty can be postponed if there is a schedule conflict, a financial hardship, or if you are unable to serve for any other reason. Most courts will excuse you from jury duty if you have a valid reason. By doing this you'll save yourself from the doubt, which has made the jury duty scam successful in the past.
If you've been contacted by a caller claiming you missed jury duty, you should report the scam immediately to the Clerk of Court's office of your local U.S. District Court.