Jury duty fraud: How scammers use civic involvement to rob you

Okay, I'll just admit it -- I'm a citizenship geek. Unlike more than half of my fellow Americans, I really, really get into the trappings of participatory democracy. I don't just love to vote; I actually save my "I Voted" stickers and keep pictures of my wife and me grinning broadly after casting our ballots. The last time around, we even took our daughter with us, which almost knocked my family over the Frank Capra/Mr. Smith Goes to Washington edge.

Despite my best efforts, I've never been given jury duty. Personally, I blame this on the fact that my last home was in a very rural area, where my lack of "kin" automatically discounted me from taking part in the judicial system. Seriously, I knew honest-to-goodness Hatfields and McCoys and I have a feeling that their lawyers were gaming the jury selection process.

At any rate, I'm hoping that New York City will be able to make better use of my Solomon-like decision-making skills and insane sense of patriotism. With that in mind, I was particularly disgusted by a recent jury duty scam that criminals were using to commit identity theft. Basically, the thief, claiming to represent the local court, calls the victim and claims that he or she has failed to show up for jury duty. After threatening arrest, the thief asks the victim for his or her social security number, birth date, and other key materials. Using this information, the thief then assumes the victims identity.

The FBI has already issued a warning about this scam, noting that the judicial system does not ask for confidential information over the phone. Unfortunately, there really isn't very much that you can do about this scam, apart from not falling for it. In the meantime, though, keep your eye out for that jury duty notice!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. While he's not a big fan of Saudi-style justice, he thinks jury scammers should probably have their ears cut off.

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