INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Officials in Indiana are warning of a nationwide phone scam where the scammers pose as U.S. Marshals or other government officials and say the person is about to be arrested for not appearing for jury duty.
The scammers then say the person on the phone can avoid being arrested by paying a fine.
Chief U.S. District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson and U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler say the scammers often seem very convincing and use real names of judges or court employees, the location of the court house as well as case and badge numbers. They want to make sure people know this is not how the court system works.
Recently, the scammers have been stating their name is David Simmons. The scammers also use phone numbers to make it appear that they are calling from a courthouse.
The scammers tell the person they missed jury duty and there's a warrant out for their arrest. Then, the scammer demands the victim send them money using a pre-paid gift card. After the gift card is purchased, the scammers will ask the victim to read the number on the gift card and then mail the gift card to the court. The courts have received numerous depleted gift cards.
Chief U.S. District Judge Magnus-Stinson said the scammers are getting extremely convincing.
"The scammer often poses as a United States Marshal or court employee and uses the names of judges or other government officials or other supposed government officials," she said.
Federal officials want you to know all communication about jury duty is done through the mail and it's unlikely anyone would call you about missing your jury duty date. It's also unlikely the U.S. Marshal's would call before they arrest someone for any reason.
"It’s wrong for someone to try to take advantage of those who would ordinarily like to serve their country through jury duty," said U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler.
While he can't comment ongoing investigations, Minkler said when a scammer is caught, they'll face more than 20 years behind bars.
"Just because you’re overseas and perpetrating this, doesn’t mean you have immunity. We will go after you overseas," he said.
The courts also want to stress that no data was breached. It's likely the scammers are just calling random numbers, perhaps by searching on white pages. Most of the victims aren't even on current jury duty lists.
“The people conducting this scam can be very convincing. They call their law-abiding victims and terrify them with threats of arrest and jail unless they pay up immediately. The U.S. Courts do not operate this way. In no instance will a court official, U.S. Marshal, or other government employee contact someone and demand payment or personal information by phone or email. This is a scam, and a lot of people are being hurt,” said Magnus-Stinson.
Victims of such a scam are asked to report the incident to the District Court Clerk’s Office at 317-229-3700, the Federal Trade Commission online here, and the U. S. Marshals Service at 317-226-6566.
If you're ever contacted by a scammer, here's what you should know and do:
- A court will never ask for a credit/debit card number, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers over the phone for any purpose.
- A prospective juror who disregards a summons will be contacted by the District Court Clerk’s Office by mail and may, in certain circumstances, be ordered to appear before a judge.
- A fine will never be imposed until after an individual has appeared in court and been given the opportunity to explain a failure to appear.
- Do not divulge personal information or financial information to unknown callers.
- Report scams to the District Court Clerk’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, or Federal Trade Commission.
- You can remain anonymous when you report.
- You can authenticate a call by contacting the Clerk’s Office of the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis at (317) 229-3700 to verify that you were not summoned for jury duty and that the scam call did not come from the court.