Be wary of callers demanding money for missed jury duty, BBB warns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The phone rings. The person on the other end of the line says you’ve missed jury duty and you’re facing fines. If you don’t pay up right away, you could end up in handcuffs.

Don’t fall for it. It’s a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“It happens!” said Paula Fleming of the BBB. “Over the last twelve months I’ve seen an increase across the United States in regards to the jury duty scam.”

Fleming said the organization’s Scam Tracker has logged dozens of complaints about the jury duty impostor scam.

“Here’s the catcher: It is real that they will fine you [up to] $2,000 [in Massachusetts] should you not show up for your time,” Fleming explained. “That’s real. What is not real is that they’re not going to call, threaten you and require you to wire money or provide a credit card on the phone.”

In 2016, the BBB fielded 46 jury duty scam reports. By January 2017, the BBB had received 23 reports.

“Think about it,” Fleming cautioned. “Say they make 500 phone calls and they get one or two people that provide the $2,000, they’ve had a great day, right?”

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To avoid this scam, all you have to do is pick up the phone and call the courthouse.

“You would call wherever you are located and say, ‘I received this phone call. Was I in fact scheduled to be on a jury?’ They’ll say no. Report it to your police department,” Fleming suggested.

The Federal Trade Commission said it has received reports of similar “court notice” scams via email. The FTC advises that you avoid clicking on any links within the email and delete it promptly.

If you are contacted by law enforcement and believe it may be legitimate, ask for identification and credentials. Then call the agency to verify the information.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.