A Bergen County, N.J., resident reported that a friend was warned that he'd be arrested for failing to appear for jury duty unless he paid a hefty fine. The caller identified himself as “Major Paul Stevens” from the Bergen County Sheriff's Office—a person who does not exist. An investigation uncovered a jury duty phone scam run out of a Georgia prison that targeted victims in at least a dozen states, Stateline reports. The jury duty scheme is just one variation of court-connected scams that have cropped up in many states.
As the schemes become more numerous and sophisticated, state and local court officials are increasingly frustrated by the fraudsters and worried about how they are tainting the judicial system's reputation. “These pseudo-court scams have been an increasing problem,” said Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America. “The common thread is always the same. There is some court-related action that is imminent. You're in trouble. You can resolve the issue by sending money somewhere.” Scams involving the courts or justice system are particularly effective because most people are law-abiding citizens and want to do the right thing, officials say.