There is a common theme with the scams I’ve heard about lately: Scam artist calls a consumer, either promises something they are in dire need of (like a loan, grant or a cash prize), or scares the heck out of them (threatening to arrest them or put them in jail or cut off their utilities), then tells them to get a pre-paid debit card and send money immediately, or else.
You skipped jury duty and you’re going to jail!–unless you wire us some money with a Green Dot card, then it’s cool
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office is also reporting in Central Texas media that a jury duty scam has been going around (via the Hill Country News‘ Facebook feed).
People have been getting calls from scammers claiming to be with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. The scammer tells them a warrant is being issued for failure to appear for jury duty and says they are going to be arrested unless they wire money with a Green Dot or other pre-paid card. The same scam has been reported all over the U.S. in recent months.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office says it does not “solicit payments or confirm payments over the phone for any warrants, fines or citations.”
If you live in Williamson County and have received a jury duty scam call, you can report it to the Sheriff’s Office at (512) 943-5242.
For everyone else, if you get a call like that, just hang up. Don’t give the scammers any payment information. Once you pay someone with a Green Dot card, the money is gone forever.
Tips to avoid being ripped off by the jury duty scam:
- Be suspicious if the “official” contacts you by phone. As a rule, jurors are not summoned via text message or phone. The court normally communicates through mail.
- Don’t give out sensitive information. Do not provide credit card or social security numbers to anyone claiming to represent the court system over the phone.
- Don’t wire money. Never wire money to someone you don’t know, through bank transfer or pre-paid debit card. You’ll never see the money again.
- Call the real number. If you ever question whether you need to appear for jury duty, call your local court system to check.
‘Pay this debt right now or you’re going to jail’
Your BBB was recently contacted by a consumer from Wisconsin whose fiancee had one of those scary phone conversations over a debt–the “investigator” who was supposedly in San Antonio wanted her to pay a debt of $440.50 or she would go to jail for 21 to 45 days “to wait for the hearing” and would then have to pay $4,000. Understandably, the woman got extremely upset. Luckily she didn’t pay them any money and reported the incident.
I called the number and got an “investigator” who wouldn’t give me her address–she said I “might send a bomb or something”–gave a corporate address that went to a medical supply business in Atlanta and a company name that went to a business in California that has nothing to do with private investigations. Totally bogus in other words.
What to do if you get a harassing call from a debt collector:
- Get validation. Ask the debt collector to provide official “validation notice” of the debt. Debt collectors are required by law to provide the information in writing. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor and a statement of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the self-proclaimed collector won’t provide the information, hang up.
- Get information about the collector. If you think that a caller may be a fake, ask for his name, company, street address, and telephone number. Then, confirm that the collection agency is real.
- Don’t give out sensitive information. Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have verified the call. If the scammer has a great deal of personal information about you, be safe and place a fraud alert on your credit report.
- Check your credit report. Check your credit report for by going to annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228. This will help you determine if you have outstanding debts or if there has been suspicious activity under your name.
- File an FTC complaint. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if the caller uses threats. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collections from being abusive, unfair or deceptive.