Whatcom County law enforcement warns of yet another phone scam going around

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Citizens in the United States and Washington state have the right to a jury trial. They also have the civic responsibility to serve on a jury if called.

But a jury scam? That’s just downright wrong.

Unfortunately, a number of Whatcom County residents have been targeted in yet another in the growing list of phone scams bombarding our stream of consciousness.

Four “jury duty” scam reports have been made to the Bellingham Police in recent weeks, according to information provided by Lt. Claudia Murphy in an email Friday to The Bellingham Herald.

“When I read the reports, they were all the same scam, where the victim is called by someone purporting to be with a law enforcement agency — telling the victim they missed jury duty,” Murphy told The Herald. “The victims all got varying instructions in these cases, all of which ended with to avoid the jail threat, they had to send money via Green Dot (or other) cards. Many of the folks paid out, as they believed the caller was from a law enforcement agency.”

That recent uptick in jury duty scam reports prompted What-Comm 911 — the dispatch service for eight Whatcom County police agencies — to post a scam alert on its Facebook page. The scammers are spoofing numbers to make calls appear to be from legitimate sources, according to the post.

The Washington State Courts website asks everyone to respond to jury summons and adds that according to RCW 2.36.170, “a person summoned for jury service who intentionally fails to appear as directed shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The jury duty scam is playing on this, Murphy said, and unfortunately, “most law-abiding citizens, unfortunately, don’t realize that the WCSO (Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office) will not come to arrest you for missing jury duty and certainly not make you get Visa or green dot cards to pay a fine.”

According to a Washington State Courts alert about the scam, some victims have made payments to scammers for a “few hundred to thousands of dollars.”

The court’s site advises if you believe you receive a jury duty scam call, do not give out any personal, credit card or banking information, hang up and call law enforcement immediately.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.