The Supreme Court of Indiana wants to alert Hoosiers about a potential telephone scam involving jury duty service.
"We have not heard of this happening in Indiana, but it is important for everyone to be aware of the potential scam to protect their information," Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said.
According to information from the FBI, the scam begins when callers represent themselves as court employees and tell victims they have failed to report for jury duty. The callers then use the threat of fines or other court action to obtain personal information such as social security number, birthdate and/or other financial information from the victim.
The threat of arrest is enough to make most people forget about protecting their confidential information and they quickly fall prey to the scam.
"In Indiana, a person receives a summons in the mail telling them the time and place to report for jury duty," said David Remondini, Counsel to Chief Justice Shepard. "Court officials don't call people, that just doesn't happen."
In Clay County, Jury Administrator Mary C. Brown initially contacts citizens for jury duty in writing. A notification letter, a Qualification, Exemption and Deferral Affidavit and a juror personal history form is sent to the citizen's home.
The notification letter will explain the person has been chosen for jury duty for a selected period of time, provide contact information if there are any questions regarding juror responsibilities, include the time and place a person is expected to appear and the amount of compensation a person will be paid for their service.
The affidavit is provided for the convenience of the potential juror in case there are legitimate reasons for their being excluded from the jury pool.
The juror personal history form allows the court to gather information about the qualifications of the person selected. All information provided to the courts through this document is confidential.
"If you don't have all this paperwork, you're not supposed to be here," Clay Superior Court Bailiff Lori Furrer told The Brazil Times.
While some court systems throughout the state have trouble gathering enough individuals for a jury pool, in Clay County the willingness of the community to participate in the jury selection process has not been a problem, she said. "We've always had a good turnout whenever we summoned people for jury duty."
If a person does not appear for jury duty the local courts can handle the situation as they deem appropriate through state law.
Indiana Code: 33-28-5-17 says that if a prospective juror fails to appear as directed by the jury commissioner they can be ordered to appear before the court and explain why. If there is failure to prove a good reason, the prospective juror can be found guilty of criminal contempt, which is punishable with a $500 fine and/or up to 60 days imprisonment.
Clay Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers, doesn't recall a case for failing to appear for jury duty in Clay County.
"Jury duty is an important part of the judicial system, but serving on a jury can create undue hardships for some families and we try to work around these problems," he said. "If a caller requests any confidential information about a person's identification that should be a red flag that the call is not legitimate. Anyone who receives a suspicious call of this type can call the court to talk with the staff and we will forward the information to the proper authorities."
Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways rip off the unsuspecting public, and the jury duty scam is just the latest in a series of telephone identity theft scams to collect confidential information from victims. Law enforcement agencies offer the following tips so the public can avoid falling prey to this and/or other telephone scams.
- Court officials have no reason to ask for social security numbers or credit card numbers over the phone and never call to threaten people with arrest for failure to appear. If someone calls looking for this type of information, hang up and contact the local authorities.
- Law enforcement urges anyone receiving a call regarding failure to report for jury duty, and suspects it is not legitimate, should contact local authorities immediately.
- Never give out Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, banking or any other personal or confidential information on the phone unless a you originated the call and are positive you know who you are talking to.