Idaho Transportation

Public Affairs Office
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID 83707
Fax: 208.334.8563

Identity scam based on bogus claim
of missed jury duty

Suggested by Cheryl Rost
ITD Risk Management

Here's a new twist scammers are using to commit identity theft: the jury duty scam. Here's how it works:

The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court and claims you've failed to report for jury duty. He tells you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.

The victim will often rightly claim they never received the jury duty notification. The scammer then asks the victim for confidential information for "verification" purposes.
Specifically, the scammer asks for the victim's Social Security number, birth date, and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information — exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.

So far, this jury duty scam has been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.

It's easy to see why this works. The victim is clearly caught off guard, and is understandably upset at the prospect of a warrant being issued for his or her arrest. So, the victim is much less likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential information.

In reality, court workers will never call you to ask for social security numbers and other private information. In fact, most courts follow up via snail mail and rarely, if ever, call prospective jurors.

Action: Never give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information when you receive a telephone call.

This jury duty scam is the latest in a series of identity theft scams where scammers use the phone to try to get people to reveal their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal confidential information.

It doesn't matter *why* they are calling — all the reasons are just different variants of the same scam.

Protecting yourself is simple: Never give this info out when you receive a phone call.

Origins: This helpful heads-up began appearing in in-boxes in August 2005. While this particular attempt to coerce information from potential identity theft victims is not new, it is real. In a number of U.S. states, con artists have been contacting people by phone to assert those they've targeted have evaded jury duty and announce warrants are being issued for their arrest.

When the about-to-be-duped protest they never received such notifications, that surely a mistake has been made, the sharpies go after what they really want, which is their pigeons' personal and financial information.

Under threat of being hauled off in paddy wagons unless they succeed in straightening out this terrible mess, many folks who would otherwise be more wary about what they reveal of their personal data will find themselves reeling off their birth dates and social security and credit card numbers in an effort to convince their callers the notifications that never arrived actually went to other addresses or were never meant for them in the first

However, these calls conclude — whether those who have been approached are left with the impression they've failed to show up for jury duty and are still expected to discharge their civic duties, or that a big misunderstanding has now been resolved — their true purpose has been accomplished: the scam artists now have the information necessary to open accounts or charge goods in the names of their victims.

The scheme outlined in the message quoted above might be categorized as a "social engineering" scam — a technique which preys upon people's unquestioning acceptance of authority and willingness to cooperate in order to extract from them sensitive information.

On 22 August 2005, the Minnesota Judicial Branch issued a warning about the bogus calls. The Minnesota Judicial Branch points out its courts always use the mail to send jury service summons, communicating by telephone only after prospective jurors have returned completed summons information forms.

In New Mexico, Rep. Tom Udall has been warning citizens about the scam. As he points out, Federal courts do not require anyone to provide any sensitive information over the telephone. Most contact between a federal court and a private citizen is conducted by mail.

The Superior Court of California has posted an alert on its web site, warning that identity thieves posing as court officials have been trying to get confidential information through phone calls about jury duty. Once again, callers have been telling potential victims they failed to report for jury duty, then demanding their Social Security numbers.

While court personnel may occasionally call people at home, "We never ask for Social Security numbers or personal identifying information," said Marita Ford, chief deputy executive officer for Riverside Superior Court.

Published 4-7-06