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Jury duty scam costs Idaho woman $2,000

Detroit Free Press

If you have ever been called for jury duty, you know it can be a little inconvenient to move your schedule around, but it’s something all of us must do. One Idaho woman tells us her story of how jury duty became a lot more than a minor inconvenience: What started as an innocent misunderstanding ended up costing her $2,000.

She is one of several reports to the Better Business Bureau of loss to the jury duty scam in the past few weeks. In this case, the woman reported to BBB she actually was called to jury duty in Kootenai County a few months back.

She showed for her date, but since she suffers from migraines, she asked the judge to be dismissed as a juror. During the selection process, the woman said the judge was unhappy with two people who didn’t show for jury duty, and he warned there are consequences for skipping out. She left, with the understanding she was excused.

Then, a few weeks ago, the scam started. The woman says she received a call from a man claiming to be an official from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. He provided the name of a real officer in the area and said she needed to come to the office right away as she had missed her jury duty summons and was potentially facing jail time. He seemed to know a lot of her personal information.

The call happened to be on a day where winter weather made travel difficult. The woman told BBB the “officer” claimed to be heading home because of the snow, and to make it easier, he would transfer her to a bail bondsmen in Chicago so she could post bail. She says she was told to come to the office another time to sort it out.

The woman tells us the “bondsman” instructed her to go to the nearest grocery store and pay him via a MoneyGram transfer. She says he warned her not to speak with the grocery store employees about the purpose of the transfer as there was a bounty for her arrest. So she hid while a friend wired the $500.

A few hours later, she received a call that the money didn’t go through. So they went to another grocery store in town and wired another $500. The woman ultimately paid an additional $1,000 to the scammers. When she called the real sheriff’s office number to confirm the transfers, she learned she had been scammed. The timing of the scam was spooky, and she says that is why she sent money.

BBB advises these tips to avoid jury-duty imposter scams:

▪  Don’t be pressured. If you get a call from alleged court officials asking for financial information and using aggressive tactics, hang up. If you are still uncertain, verify independently.

▪  Be aware of spoofed calls. Scammers use software to disguise how they appear on your caller ID. While calls might appear to be from your local courthouse or police station, it could be a fraudster on the other end of the line.

▪  Guard your personal information. Giving out sensitive personal or financial information to a unsolicited caller is a bad idea.

▪  Never wire money. Legitimate law enforcement will not demand payment immediately via wire transfer or prepaid card. If you are asked for money this way, know can be as untraceable as cash.

▪  Have questions about the process? If you did indeed miss jury duty, you will be sent a notification. However, if you have any doubt that a mailing is legitimate, contact your local courthouse.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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