Imagine getting a call from someone identifying themselves as a federal court official or U.S. Marshal, informing you that your arrest is imminent unless you pay a cost—all because you failed to respond to a jury summons (which you don’t remember getting). I’d like to think that you’d immediately smell the rotten scam here and hang up, but unfortunately, many adults fall for this jury duty scam.

10DFirst off, let me get it off my chest: Who the devil ever heard of being arrested or fined for not responding to a jury summons? This farce isn’t even depicted in any of the slew of crime and law dramas that have been on TV for decades.

But the scammer relies on inducing enough fear in the targeted person to win them over. These scammers are sophisticated and even have call centers, says Melissa Muir, quoted in an article on uscourts.gov. She’s director of Administrative Services for the U.S. District Court of Western Washington. She points out that a federal court will never call someone and make threats or demand payments.

So if you hear what sounds like a bustling call center in the background of the call, assume this is staged to make the call sound official.

So what is the federal court’s response when someone ignores a jury summons?

  • The court clerk’s office will contact you.
  • You may be required to appear in court before a judge.
  • At the court, the judge may order that you pay a fine—but not before you’re given the chance to explain why you failed to appear for your jury summons.

If you get a fraudulent call, do not give out any information; hang up. Call your local court clerk’s office or the U.S. Marshal’s Service office for peace of mind: Check if you really did miss a jury summons, but chances are extremely high, and I mean higher than a kite, that the call was a scam.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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