Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Identity Thieves Use False Jury Duty Alerts To Get Personal Information


According to the FBI, a jury-duty scam has duped civic-minded citizens into releasing their social security numbers and other information, making them the targets of yet another attempt at identity theft. Originally surfacing in 2005, there's been a reported resurgence in 2006, and it has spread to Massachusetts this year, as reported on February 13th in the Boston Globe. Complaints have also been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia. Alaska Pride is not aware of any occurrences in Alaska, yet. Original story from the ABC News Blotter.

Here's how it works: You get a call from someone who claims to be a court official. You never showed up for jury duty, the "official" says, and now you're facing arrest. When you say you never received a jury notice, the self-proclaimed court officer will ask you for your personal information, to include social security number, birth date, or credit card numbers in order "straighten out" the situation. People who provide the information later find credit card accounts opened in their name.

In other cases, citizens are simply told they've been called for jury duty and asked to provide their personal information to save them the "inconvenience" of visiting the court house. If they don't provide it, they are threatened with fines.

If you get one of these phone calls, don't fall for it. The FBI warns that telephone calls from people claiming to be a part of the judicial system are most likely frauds. The judicial system will not ask for personal information such as Social Security numbers over the phone. Court officials will always use regular U.S. mail to contact you, not the phone or e-mail.

In addition to the jury duty scams, other scams involve people calling about your taxes or problems with your bank account. Jay Foley, the Executive Director of the Identity Theft Resource Center, advises, "Never give out personal information over the phone unless you know darn well who the caller is. I don't care if they say they are a police officer, FBI agent or the President of the United States." Visit the Identity Theft Resource Center's Consumer Alert page to learn about other such scams.

Report suspicious calls to your local FBI office. You can find field office numbers at http://www.fbi.gov/. Also consider contacting your local District Court office with complaints.

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