SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — In early December, a postmarked envelope appeared at Sacramento County Superior Court. Inside was a plain white envelope filled with used debit gift cards totaling around $3,000.
Then, another arrived.
Soon the court suspected the spent cards were linked to a phone scam it had been warning about on its website. Scam callers contact residents of Sacramento and beyond with claims that they missed a jury summons and must pay up. The scammer has victims give up personal information and money over the phone.
So far, the court has received over $10,000 in used debit gift cards.
"We've received six separate envelopes so far from three different residents of California. None of them have been residents of Sacramento County," Sacramento County Superior Court Jury Commissioner Ginger Durham said in an interview. "I would have thought that they would say, 'I was contacted, and I was told that I needed to pay $3,000. Here's my proof that I paid the $3,000' but there's no note on there whatsoever."
This isn't an isolated issue — reports of similar scams have come from North Carolina, Washington state, Texas and more. In addition, financial scheme calls appear to be on the rise, with Americans losing $28.9 billion to scam calls in 2021. The average victim loses $502.
Solving phone scam operations is difficult but possible. Law enforcement can pull call detail records and try to trace the details of the call to the Public Switched Telephone Network and identify the originating service provider. This helps show if the number was spoofed and provides other key information investigators need to find the perpetrators.
Without an identified perpetrator, victims cannot recoup their funds. While the investigation continues, the court urges people to report scam calls to law enforcement and work with other state courts to warn the public.
"At this point, we don't know any way that they can recoup their funds unless we're able to apprehend the people who are doing the scam. Because once they scratch off the numbers on the back of the cards and then give those numbers to the people who are perpetrating the scam, the money is gone. It's just gone," Durham said.
The court reminds Sacramento County residents it only sends notices by mail and will not call an individual, never asks for personal information. Most importantly, there is no fine for a missed jury summons.
"There is absolutely no fine. If someone fails to appear for jury service and they contact us, we will simply reschedule them for jury service to a more convenient date for them," Durham said.
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