The following chain-email happened into my inbox the other day:
Most of us take the summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced. Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS.
In this con, someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn’t show up for jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.
If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so that he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant.
Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers. Give out any of this information and … Bingo! Your identity has just been stolen. The scam has been reported so far in 11 states. This scam is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try and bully people into giving information by pretending they’re with the court system. The FBI and federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.
Pass this on.
I checked Snopes and this is for real. Here is the link if you want to check it out.
(Emphasis added by me)
I did, in fact, check out the Snopes article, although I really didn’t need to. Though I haven’t heard of this particular scam before, intimidating phone calls have long been a weapon of the identity thief. I believed the email right off the bat (which isn’t something I ordinarily do).
The Snopes article explains that the jury scam email began to appear in 2005, and even then, the scam itself wasn’t new – the reports date back to 2001.
Let’s be honest here – identity thieves love the phone. They don’t have to find an official uniform in order to convince you of their authority – all they need is a 1-800 number (which I hear you can now get in specially marked boxes of cereal).
So how can you protect yourself against phone scammers? Well, you can be like me and never answer phone calls that come from a number you don’t recognize. I mainly do that because I have tele-phobia (no, seriously), but it also keeps the scammers away. Barring that (or if you don’t have caller ID), Snopes has some tips on how to combat identity thieves over the phone:
- Court workers will not telephone to say you’ve missed jury duty… so dismiss fraudulent phone calls of this nature. (Also, any warrant would be issued in person, anyway. So if someone calls saying they have a warrant for your arrest… they don’t.)
- Do not give out bank account, social security, or credit card numbers over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call, whether it be to someone trying to sell you something or to someone who claims to be from a bank or government department. If such callers insist upon “verifying” such information with you, have them read the data to you from their notes, with you saying yea or nay to it rather than the other way around.
I’ll delve more into ways to protect yourself from identity thieves later, but for now… at least you understand why I’m afraid of the telephone.