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Another Reason to Hate Jury Duty: Identity Theft

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Upright citizens know it is their duty to report to jury service. However, scammers are taking advantage of this sense of civic responsibility in a new trend of identity theft schemes. U.S. District Judge David Herndon in Illinois is cautioning residents after there were reports of calls that seemingly come from local courthouses or law enforcement agencies notifying them of missed jury duty assignments, The Associated Press reported.

Criminals are calling residents, claiming they missed jury duty and are subject to a fine before attempting to collect their personal information. To perpetuate this telephone scam, criminals are using sophisticated methods to assume the identity of court or law enforcement officials using what is called caller ID spoofing. This technology allows scammers on the other line to modify their voice and even recreate the background noise that could be heard at a police station to fool residents.

Not only do these criminals try to collect payment for fake fines, they also make an effort to obtain personal and financial data from their victims, including Social Security and credit card numbers. As a scammer tries to extract pieces of useful information from the first instance of contact, they can record the conversation to play it back and reiterate it during a second call to make their scheme more convincing. Those targeted by identity thieves for this particular jury duty scam tend to be older because they are more trusting and responsive to calls of civic duty.

Scammers can obtain caller information gleaned from business documents that were not shredded completely or online from social networks or professional websites. They even resort to finding and contacting victims’ friends or family to pressure them into paying.

Tips for Responding to Phone Scams

In case citizens do run into this particular scam, avoid giving scammers any information. Herndon said federal courts do not collect sensitive information via phone calls. Legitimate organizations will leave a paper trail. Request that you receive the notice in writing. If they ask for your address, tell them that they should have it on record since they were the ones that sent the jury summons – or whatever the issue is – and called you.

The payment methods should also be a red flag. Scammers tend to use payment channels like Western Union, MoneyPak and similar prepaid cards because they are harder to trace once money is sent.

As soon as you’re off the phone call, do a quick Google search to find out the number of the institution that is supposedly calling you. Call the organization, explain the situation and ask if they are, in fact, trying to contact you for any particular reason.

It’s also a good idea to periodically check your credit reports and credit score, because both can indicate whether you’ve become a victim of identity theft.  Look over your credit report for any unauthorized credit accounts, as well and monitor your credit score (you can use Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card) — for unexpected or explained drops, which could point to fraudulent activity.

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