Judge warns citizens about jury duty scam

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(KTVI)-- Jury service is considered a civic duty.  So when someone calls to say you are being fined for failure to appear, people react quickly.  But the real issue is, should you react at all?

It`s hard to believe that people can say they speak for the federal courts while stealing from non- suspecting citizens.   But it happens.   Scam artists will call people, and tell them they missed their federal jury service, and ask them to pay a fine.

Judge David Herndon is the Chief Judge for the Federal District Courts for the Southern District of Illinois.  He says the scam surfaced in 2004 and then it sort faded out.  But it`s back according to Judge Herndon.  "This latest scam has asked them to go out and buy a Money Pak card in the amount of $400 as a fine," he said.

The courts say don`t send any money because it`s a bogus claim.  "No court, certainly not a federal court, will call somebody and say you`ve missed your court date, and or you`ve missed your jury service, and we require something of you," he stated.

Judge Herndon says any communication from the courts would be in writing.  And if you did miss jury service, the courts would first request an explanation before any fines are assessed.  Judge Herndon says the caller asks for other things as well.  "The scam has also asked people to give them certain identifying information, full name, birthdates, or social security numbers so they can use that identifying information to steal their identity for other purposes," Judge Herndon said.

And the judge says don`t be fooled when you look at your caller ID.  The scammers download an app that causes the caller ID to show the courts number when it`s not the US Courts at all.   Whether it`s the elderly, the disabled or a person who`s trying to stay on the right side of the law, Judge Herndon says the scammers hit people who want to do the right thing.    "If you look at most fraud, if not all fraud, the prey on the vulnerability of people whether it`s an older person, a disabled person Or a person that`s going to react to something that gets in their gut,"  he said.

There are no complaints in metro St. Louis, but recent reports have come out of New Mexico.   If someone calls you claiming to be from the courts, and threaten you with a fine, contact the District Court Clerk in your area or the FBI to report it.  And we want you to call us with your consumer issues.  The line is open between 11am and 1pm Monday through Thursday.  Call 800 782-2222.

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