Jury duty fines latest scam

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Scammers are now using jury duty as a way to trick people into paying fines over the phone.

It’s a nationwide scam that’s only recently been reported in the area, but the Better Business Bureau serving eastern North Carolina is warning consumers that a legitimate law enforcement agency will never call and demand payment.

The scam begins with a caller impersonating a law enforcement officer, claiming that the resident has missed jury duty and must pay a fine or risk being arrested, according to a press release from BBB. Residents are then urged to get a reloadable debit card, provide a bank account number of wire money to the scammer, the release stated.

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose said that while he hadn’t heard local reports of this particular scam, using the threat of jail is a common thread in many of them.

“There’s plenty of scams that use law enforcement as a threat,” Rose said.

Rose said there are two scams the sheriff’s office has seen recently: scammers posing as IRS representatives making an attempt to collect on back taxes; the other, in which they pose as law enforcement collecting a past debt, saying they are calling from the local law enforcement agency and using cloned numbers that make it appear as if the call is made locally. Scammers are relying on victims to pay the supposed fines to avoid jail, even if they don’t remember any past debt, he said.

“Usually, they’ll name a debt from eight or nine years ago that’s unsettled and tell them if they don’t pay it right then, they’ll come and arrest them,” Rose said.

While an actual person calls in the past-debt scam, the IRS scammers will use automated calls telling the victim to call a number in order to pay their tax debt.

The IRS, however, never contacts taxpayers except by mail.

Rose said the best thing to do when confronted with one of these calls is to avoid giving a caller any information, attempt to get information from the caller instead — a phone number to call back or an address — and report suspicions of scams to law enforcement.