Identity Theft Risk: The Jury Duty Scam
As if there aren't enough things for us to be worried about with personal finances and protecting our privacy in the age of the Internet, I just read on Audri Lanford's Scambusters site about a new identity theft scam that is exactly the kind of thing that'd work with someone caught up trying to manage their finances: the jury duty scam.
Here's how it works: The scammer calls you claiming to work for the courts in your county, then explains that you've failed to report for jury duty. He or she then regretfully informs you that a warrant has just been issued for your arrest.
The victim will then claim, of course, that they never received any sort of jury duty notification and the scammer, without missing a beat, then asks the victim for what should remain confidential information for "verification" purposes.
Specifically, the scammer will ask for the victim's birth date, home address, Social Security Number, and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information -- exactly what a scammer needs to steal the victim's identity!
So far, this jury duty scam has been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington state.
It's easy to see why this works too: The victim is caught completely off guard, scared that they'll be arrested and understandably upset at the prospect of a warrant being issued for their arrest. As a result, the victim is then much less likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential information.
In reality employees of the Court will never call you to ask for your birth date, social security number and other private information. In fact, the majority of local courts follow up missed jury duty via physical mail and rarely, if ever, call prospective jurors.
My recommendation is the same for any other person who calls you and asked for this sort of information: Never give out your Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal information when you receive a telephone call.
If you think there's even a tiny chance it's legitimate, ask for their name, look up the court's number in your phone book, and ask to be reconnected to that person. But they'll have some excuse, some reason why you can't call them back, and that's your warning that it's indeed a scam.
This apalling jury duty scam is just the latest in a series of identity theft scams where scammers call, trying to get people to reveal their credit card numbers, Social Security number, birth dates and other personal confidential information.
It doesn't matter why they are calling, after all, they're all just variants on the same basic scam. Fortunately, protecting yourself is simple: Never give this information out when you receive a phone call.
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