Jury Duty Scam Just Another Identity Theft Trick

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies around the country have reported the resurgence of an old trick known as the jury duty scam.

In this scam, potential victims receive calls from people posing as court officers. The caller informs the victim that he or she failed to appear for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest. After alarming the victim, the caller then seeks to ďconfirmĒ the victimís Social Security number and other personal information. After divulging this information, the victim is often told that the entire matter can be instantly dismissed by paying a fine. All the victim needs to do is provide a credit card or checking account routing number.

By the time the call ends, the scammer has all the information necessary to open lines of credit under the unsuspecting victimís name. Identity thieves can quickly empty the victimís bank accounts or run up staggering credit card bills.

As with many ploys to obtain consumersí personal information, it is likely that many of these identity thieves are actually thousands of miles away, often in other countries and out of reach of U.S. law enforcement. Under this scheme, criminals simply go through the phone book hoping that sooner or later someone will provide the sensitive information they need to steal an identity.

This ploy is particularly effective because it causes victims to react immediately out of fear, rather than taking the time to reflect about the information being requested. While citizens could face legal consequences for failing to respond to a valid jury summons, legitimate court officers would never leave threatening messages on someoneís voicemail to demand personal information and immediate payment of a fine.

Consumers who receive such a call can verify whether they must appear for jury duty by calling their local courthouse or district court. Consumers should NEVER hand over personal information in response to an unsolicited telephone call or e-mail, no matter how legitimate it might appear.

For more information, contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or visit the Attorney Generalís Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us

General Abbott's signature
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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