When Oklahoma resident Karen West got a phone call saying she would be hauled off to jail unless she paid fines for missing jury duty, she panicked.
“There is going to be a police car at your house,” she told KFOR, describing what the person on the phone told her. “It’s on its way to arrest you.”
Scared of spending the night in jail, she took out cash advances and put thousands of dollars on prepaid debit cards. The phone call, however, turned out to be nothing more than a scam.
This same scam has been going on for more than a decade and, always, the caller says they are a member of law enforcement. Here’s how it works:
You receive a phone call (usually after hours) saying you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay fines (usually from a prepaid debit or gift card) for missing jury duty. The scammer asks to verify your identity by getting personal information, like your name, birth date and Social Security number. Once you’ve given them the information they’ve requested, they ask you to pay over the phone. All the scammer needs is the number on the back of the prepaid card.
AARP says the first thing to do if you receive a phone call like this is to hang up without giving them any information. Do not buy any prepaid cards and do not pay them.
Authentic jury duty notifications are delivered by mail—not on the phone—and you won’t be asked for personal information. Police also don’t give a heads-up about an impending arrest (for missing jury duty or for any other reason). It is also important to remember that caller ID can be manipulated to display the name and phone number of any agency or business, so even if it looks like a real phone call, it may not be.
For more information on how to avoid phone scams, click here.