CLAYTON, MO. (KTVI) – St. Louis County court officials are warning residents to beware of a hoax involving jury duty. It appears to essentially be a gag, but some very upset people have been calling the jury office about a phone recording that threatened them with fines and jail time.
The hoax begins when someone gets a call saying they’ve missed their jury duty, and are given a number to call to take care of the matter. The phone number, beginning with area code 704, plays an official sounding recording with some very bad news.
“If you are hearing this message our records indicate that you failed to appear for jury duty last Monday morning at 9:00 am. Multiple notifications of your jury summons were sent to you.” Then it continues with the punishment you’re apparently facing. “To make arrangements to pay the $500 fine for failing to appear for jury duty press 2. To make arrangements to begin to serve a 30 jail sentence press 3.”
It’s at this point most people hang up and start looking up numbers for the juror office in Clayton. They miss the end, where the voice on the line instructs you to pass the number “to your ten most gullible friends” and confesses it’s a joke put on by www.humorhotlines.com.
But the phone have been ringing at the courthouse.
“They got very upset because they didn’t hear the complete message. And then they called us,” St. Louis County Director of Judicial Administration Paul Fox said. “At first I thought it was trouble, that it might be a scam because there was a button to push if you wanted to pay the fine. I expected someone to try to take a credit card number or something, but they didn’t’ do that, they just laughed it off as a joke.”
Fox says he has checked with police, and there’s nothing that’s actually illegal about the hoax. But he’s unhappy about it just the same.
County residents we spoke to got a bit of a chuckle out of the gag, but were clearly glad the joke wasn’t on them.
“I’d be a little annoyed,” Chris Clark said, “but I think it’s one of those things where you have to play it safe and figure out all the information.”
The same prank has made news in Western Michigan, where warnings from the Muskegon County Courts went out January 24th.