HELENA – Like many common telephone scams, the so-called “jury duty scam” can appear at first to be a serious phone call. A caller will claim that you have been cited for failing to show up for required jury duty.
“Someone will pose as a law enforcement officer, telling you that you have to pay today, or they’re coming to arrest you,” said Marcus Meyer, an investigator with the Montana Office of Consumer Protection.
Meyer said these threatening calls come sporadically. In several cases, law enforcement agencies around Montana have reported a number of residents receiving them in a short period of time.
The jury duty scam isn’t one of the most common scams OCP sees, but that can actually make it tougher for consumers to identify it.
“They’re not used to getting that call as much as you would for the IRS or grandparent or lottery scam,” Meyer said.
Investigators say jury duty scammers do research to make their calls seem more believable. They will disguise their phone numbers, so caller ID will show the call coming from a local law enforcement agency.
“If they’re calling somebody in Yellowstone County, they’ll pretend to be with the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office,” said Meyer. “If they’re calling someone in Lewis and Clark County, they’ll pretend to be with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.”
But because the callers claim to be local, you can easily check whether it is a scam by calling the law enforcement agency yourself.
“The best thing to do is either look up in your phone book or to go onto the internet and look up the number for that agency, then call the number that you have received for them,” Meyer said.
Investigators say whenever someone demands immediate payment – especially from a prepaid debit card or other “fast cash” option – it is likely to be a scam.
“If there was ever an arrest warrant issued in your name, you would never receive a phone call saying they’re going to be at your doorstep in four hours to arrest you,” said Meyer.
If you have questions about the jury duty scam or other scams, you can contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500. Information is also available on the agency’s website.