Pay a fine and avoid jail.
That’s the type of call some Connecticut residents are getting from scammers who are pretending they are calling from the federal jury administrator’s office.
The Clerk’s Office for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut recently learned that three people reported that they received a call from a man falsely identifying himself as “Lt. Steve Smith” with “badge number 8031″ from the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, officials said.
“The man referred to a case number, that the person had failed to appear for jury selection, and there was a warrant for their arrest. The caller told the people that a bond had been set and the matter would be resolved if they gave him four Green Dot pre-paid $500 VISA cards. In one instance, a victim purchased a Green Dot card and, at the caller’s direction, provided the card’s number to the caller,” said Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Ronnie Vermette, the federal court jury administrator, said that one of her relatives was targeted. She said that someone called her niece and said that her niece’s husband was going to be arrested for not showing up for jury duty. He told her that if her husband paid the fine – by purchasing four money cards that totaled about $2,000 – he could avoid jail.
“They were very convincing, very terrifying,” Vermette said. “They referred to certain judges. They cited certain case numbers.”
One resident of Monroe actually paid the money because the person convinced her that she would otherwise have to go to jail, Vermette said. “He told them, ‘you are welcome to turn yourself in, but you will get arrested, so you better pay the fine,’” Vermette said.
Daly said that if residents receive a call like this they should not provide any personal identification information or money to the caller.
Federal and state courts in Connecticut do not call prospective jurors and ask for money or personal identifying information over the telephone, she said.
Juror information for the U.S. District Court in Connecticut can be found at www.ctd.uscourts.gov.
Anyone receiving a “Jury Duty Scam” phone call should report it, with any available Caller ID information, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven at 203-777-6311, or 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324). Daly urged people who receive phone calls from suspicious sources to refrain from disclosing personal identifying information, as it may be used to cause serious financial harm and jeopardize a person’s credit.
“Identity thieves and scammers defrauding the public will be vigorously prosecuted when identified,” Daly said.
Recently, the state and federal courts in Connecticut were hit by another scam. This one involved virus-bearing emails that purported to be notices of court hearings.
The messages, described as a “notice to appear” or “warrant to appear,” were written as if they were sent by a court clerk and the subject line usually refers to a hearing and states a docket number. But instead, each scam-email carries a virus that can steal information and damage computer systems.