RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Jury duty is every adult citizen's civic responsibility. A responsibility con men are using to try to steal your identity. The FBI has been warning people about this one for several years. It starts with a phone call from someone pretending to be an officer of the court.
If you've been licensed to drive or registered to vote, you're likely a candidate to be randomly selected for jury service. Scammers use that premise to call you up and scare into thinking you skipped out on your appearance in court.
"It's intimidating if you hear what sounds like a government official saying we got an arrest warrant for you and the only way I'll cut you some slack is give me a number," said University of Richmond Law Professor Ron Bacigal.
The caller tells you you're going to jail for bailing on jury duty and then offers a remedy. Give up your social security and birth date to get it all cleared up or risk a deputy coming to get you. Bacigal says that's just not the way it works.
"If you were called for jury duty and didn't appear, you would be in a whole lot of trouble. But, don't expect a sheriff to show up at your front door," he said. "They don't issue arrest warrants. They'll notify you and ask why you didn't appear and give you another date or an opportunity."
While most court contacts are made by mail, in Henrico for example, a jury officer will call to tell you if you have to appear for jury duty so it's not impossible to get a call from a jury officer. But that caller shouldn't need you to give him the kind of info that could open you up to identity theft.
"Ask them to give you their name and their phone number. And then you can call back and see whether there's some indication that where you're getting is a government office. A lot of times that's where they'll hang up and back off," said Bacigal.
Bottom line, you should never give out personal information when you receive an unsolicited call. If you do get a suspicious call like this though, you should contact your local FBI office.