The jury duty scam

The caller’s voice was authoritative, but gentle, polite and reassuring. He identified himself as Sgt. Sullivan, badge number 6747 of the Sheriff’s Office of the county where we live. He asked me why I had not showed up for jury duty at the county courthouse, as required six days ago. I had not received a jury summons in years, and I said so.

No doubt, he said, I am part of a large group that for some reason did not receive their jury summonses, something to do with a computer problem. The Sheriff’s Office has been working with the Post Office to try to sort this out, he said. Still, to clear my name and prevent being held in contempt of court for failing to report for jury duty, I was required to do one of two things to clear my name.

Either a sheriff’s deputy would come to my home, apprehend me and take me to the county courthouse, place me in a holding cell for up to 72 hours while awaiting a hearing before a judge to remove this contempt of court charge. That’s plan B, which Sgt. Sullivan insisted no one wanted. Choosing Plan A meant that I would drive to the courthouse and at a kiosk in the lobby, enter my personal information and with a credit card, pay a fine of $494, then present my receipt to a clerk, who would hand me a cashier’s check to reimburse me the amount of this fine.

Something is wrong with this picture. I should be fined nearly $500 for failing to show up for jury duty? I didn’t think so, and I politely told him so.

“Sergeant Sullivan, because I now believe that this is a fraud, I will check and call you back, if you don’t mind. May I please have a phone number where I can reach you?” He quoted a phone number, including his extension, and added at my request the name of his supervisor, Capt. Fitzpatrick.

Just as we were about to hang up, he suddenly called me a few coarse names, ending with  mother****er.

I looked up the Sheriff’s Office phone number and called. The deputy answering the phone recognized the story, “This is a popular scam right now,” he said. “We don’t have a Sgt. Sullivan or a Capt. Fitzpatrick. Just ignore it. You’re fine.”

Scammers like to prey on folks our age because we tend to be more trusting, I suppose. As a survivor of numerous previous scam attempts, I’m learning not to trust callers who try to tempt me to part with what few dollars I have. I can’t tell you  how many times I have received and quickly hung up on the “Grandpa, I’m in trouble, and I need you to send me money to get out of jail” call. Just got another one yesterday, in fact.

If you find yourself sucked into a scheme to part with your money by such a caller, terminate the conversation and hang up. If the caller cites a company or institution he or she purports to represent, look it up, and call it directly to check into the authenticity of the call and caller. Scammers are out for your money and are increasingly clever with their deceitful tales to draw you in.





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