The most effective scams typically bring the fear factor into play to elicit a response from potential victims, and one currently making the rounds in Denton County is no exception.
The scam involves someone contacting residents by telephone and telling them that they missed jury duty and are facing jail time unless they pay a $749 fine.
Denton County District Clerk Sherri Adelstein issued a warning to county residents about the jury service scam last week.
Denton attorney Earl Dobson alerted the county about the ploy recently on behalf of a friend who was targeted. The friend told Dobson that the individual who contacted her threatened that a warrant would be issued for her arrest unless she paid a fine.
Dobson said he had heard about the scam being reported in Tarrant County recently and told his friend to report the call to the police.
When she did, she learned that a number of other people had called in to report similar experiences.
“It’s a pretty good scam in terms of the way they sell it; it is pretty convincing,” Dobson said.
Adelstein said jury services will never call and tell people they have a warrant out for their arrest and tell them to pay a fine.
“That is not the procedure for people who do not show up for jury duty,” she said. “Unless you were ordered by a court to appear somewhere and you failed to appear, that is the only time the court has the authority to issue a warrant for someone’s arrest,” Adelstein said.
“I would hate to see people that are taking their jury service seriously and are concerned they inadvertently missed a notice,” Dobson said. “They are trying to do the right thing and getting scammed out of money — that’s just wrong.”
We agree. It is typically honest, well-intentioned people who get victimized by such scams. As Dobson said, these good folks just want to do the right thing, and unfortunately, that can make them easy targets.
Similar scams have been around for a long time, but new twists and fast-talking callers with threatening tones can still help sell such trickery to unwitting victims.
Most of us know by now to steer clear of e-mails from anyone claiming to be a Nigerian prince, but a gruff-voiced authoritative-sounding individual who calls our home phone to find out why we failed to show up for jury duty might sound like the real deal.
The fear factor can be a powerful sales technique, which is why so many scammers like to use it.
The best advice is to always contact authorities whenever there’s a question about the validity of a call or other communication. They’re experts in helping prevent crime, and your report might just help other potential victims avoid disaster.