CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned consumers about a phone scam in which a person receives a call threatening arrest or other punishment for missing jury duty.
The scam frequently circulates throughout West Virginia. Oftentimes the con artist will pose as a law enforcement official and, in lieu of arrest, demand immediate payment of a fine via credit card, debit card, prepaid Green Dot card or any number of gift cards, including those for iTunes.
Most recently, an Eastern Panhandle businessman lost $1,500 as he was one of multiple area residents to report having received such a call. Similar incidents have been reported this year in Kanawha, Putnam and Wood counties.
“These calls can be unnerving,” Morrisey said. “No one wants to get tangled up in legal issues, however it’s crucial to call local authorities before complying with any such demand.”
Scammers will pose as federal marshals and/or local law enforcement. They often attempt to boost their credibility by spoofing official phone numbers, stealing badge numbers and misrepresenting themselves as named police officers.
Consumers can do a few things to avoid falling prey:
* Be wary of any demand payment via prepaid card or wire transfer.
* Never share personal information without verifying the identity of the recipient.
* Don’t trust a name or number just because it appears on caller ID.
* Be suspicious of off-hour phone calls and those from an unidentified number.
* Listen for inaccuracies as scammers may misrepresent a judge’s title and/or indicate the court is located where none exists.
Residents who receive a call like this should call their local circuit clerk’s office, sheriff’s office and/or federal courthouse to verify if they missed a jury summons.
If the call turns out to be false, consumers should file a report with local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.