US Federal Courts warn of aggressive scammers

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Credit: Reuters

US Federal Court: This year’s scams are more aggressive and sophisticated than we’ve seen in years past

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The fraud and scam war rages. This week the Federal Courts warned of swindles involving people posing as federal court officials and U.S. Marshals targeting citizens, threatening them with arrest unless they pay some fake fine for failing to show up for jury duty .

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“This year’s scams are more aggressive and sophisticated than we’ve seen in years past,” says Melissa Muir, Director of Administrative Services for the U.S. District Court of Western Washington in a statement. “Scammers are setting up call centers, establishing call-back protocols and using specific names and designated court hearing times.”

The bottom line is this: A federal court will never threaten an individual or demand the immediate payment —either over the telephone or money wire service— for fines or for not responding to a jury summons, the court stated.

The court recommends citizens who receive any such calls should:

  • Separate yourself from the call to make a calm and collected assessment of the situation. Hang up and contact your local court clerk’s office or U.S. Marshals Service office to check for any potential charges.
  • Be aware of federal court policy on the failure to appear for jury service.
  • Typically, jurors who miss jury duty will be contacted by the court Clerk’s Office and may, in certain circumstances, be ordered to appear in court before a judge. A judge will impose any fine for failure to appear for jury duty during an open session of court, and the summoned juror will be given the opportunity to explain the failure to appear before any fine would (is) be imposed.

The court has warned ion the past of e-mails scams from people claiming they have been selected for jury service and demanding that they return a form with such information as Social Security and driver’s license numbers, date of birth, cell phone number, and mother’s maiden name. According to the e-mail, anyone who failed to provide the information would be ordered to court to explain their failure, and could face fines and jail time. The e-mail also falsely claimed that it was affiliated with eJuror, an online registration program.

The email is fraudulent and has no connection to either the federal courts or to eJuror, the court system said in a statement. The Administrative Office noted that eJuror never requests that personal identification information be sent directly in an email response. Requests by courts to complete a qualification questionnaire would be initiated by formal written correspondence. Such letters tell jury participants how to access an authenticated, secure online connection.

The court has also in the past warned of scammers using the threat of arrest unless of course you pay them off. Specifically the US Court statement said: "You've received a warrant by fax or email saying a federal law enforcement officer or an attorney for the government wants to arrest you. Charges may be for money laundering or bank fraud, or missed jury duty. To avoid arrest, the warrant says, send money. Again, it’s a scam.

Meanwhile the US Marshals warned of the scam earlier this month that found fraudsters trying to appear more credible, offering information like badge numbers and the names of actual federal judges and courthouse addresses.

Victims have been told they can avoid arrest by paying a fine using a reloadable credit card, and were urged to call a number and provide their own credit card number to initiate the process, the law enforcement agency stated.

The U.S. Marshals Service said it does not call anyone to arrange payment of fines over the phone for failure to appear for jury duty or any other infraction. The Marshals Service urged the public not to divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers, even if they sound legitimate and report any calls to local law enforcement.

The US Marshal fraud is just the latest in a line of imposter scams that have plagued the country. This week the Federal Trade Commission listed imposter scams as the third highest consumer complaint of 2015.

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