CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has urged West Virginians to be cautious if they receive a phone call from someone who says the citizen is being fined for not responding to a jury duty notice.
“This is a particularly egregious scam in that it plays on people’s confusion and nervousness about serving as a juror,” Morrisey said in a statement. “It truly targets people who want to participate in the American justice system if asked.”
In the scam, a person calls under the guise of being a representative of a local sheriff’s department. The caller tells the citizen that he or she was summoned for jury duty and is now being fined for not showing up on the assigned date. The caller tells the person that if he or she does not immediately pay the fine, it will either increase or a warrant will be issued for his or her arrest.
The caller then asks the citizen to surrender their bank routing number or credit card information so the fine may be paid. The caller also may suggest that the citizen purchase a money order or pre-paid debit card and send it to a “collection agency.”
“This type of scam preys on West Virginians who are trying to avoid getting into trouble,” Morrisey said. “Scammers are trying to use high-pressure scare tactics to pad their wallet and unfortunately empty yours.
"Honest West Virginians have received these calls, and some of them thought they were doing the right thing by paying the scammers.”
Local county sheriff offices and circuit clerk offices have indicated that this is a scam.
“Citizens should always be concerned if they receive a call out of the blue saying they need to surrender financial information or pay a set amount to avoid legal trouble,” Morrisey said. “Always be wary if a caller asks you to wire money or use a pre-paid debit card to pay a surprise bill or fine.
"Remember, using a money order, wiring money or using a pre-paid card is the same as sending cash. Once the money is sent, it is very hard to track who received it.”
Morrisey said citizens who receive a call like this should collect as much information as they can from the caller. Citizens then should call their local circuit clerk’s office and sheriff’s department to verify that they haven’t missed a jury summons. If the call turns out to be false, citizens should file a report with local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.