Jury Scam in Texas

FORT WORTH (CN) - Scammers are threatening Texans with arrest unless they pay phony fines for missing jury duty, the Tarrant County District Attorney's office warns.
     The unknown caller identifies himself as Lt. Allen with a sheriff's office, police department or constable's office.
     "Basically, the swindler calls an unsuspecting citizen and tells them there is a warrant out for their arrest for failing to appear for jury duty," said Melody McDonald, the DA's public information officer. "They then 'allow' the person to pay their fine (upwards of $4,000) to avoid being arrested."
     The victim is told to go to a grocery store to purchase a prepaid Green Dot Money Card and give the information over the phone to satisfy the fine.
     "The scam artists are using disposable cell phones so they have no problem giving the citizen a phone number to call them back," county officials said in a statement. "This allows the scam artist to get the money so there is no actual face-to-face contact. The scam artists sound very convincing over the phone. They threaten the citizen with jail and fines in order to get them to comply."
     County officials urge people to write down the phone number of such callers, refuse to give any personal information and call the police to file a complaint.
     Tarrant County Jury Bailiff Paula G. Morales said the county started receiving "a lot" more phone calls in February regarding the scam.
     "Honestly, we have been dealing with this scam as well as others for years," she told Courthouse News on Wednesday. "People weren't really calling to confirm the instructions but rather to try to understand what was happening to them."
     Tarrant County Jury Services said it does not contact people by phone to pay fines for failure to appear for jury service.
     "Typically, we would send a failed to appear notice before taking any action," it said. "If a warrant is issued for your arrest, there is not warning phone call. The courts do not allow citizens to pay a fine in lieu of jury service. A fine can be assessed, and in some cases jail time but it would still result in the jury service being rescheduled to a later date."