A caller told her to bring $800 and meet a deputy outside the Whatcom County courthouse

Survey: Most can’t recognize scammer tactics

Washington residents aren't as good at recognizing common scams as they think, according to a new survey by the state AARP.
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Washington residents aren't as good at recognizing common scams as they think, according to a new survey by the state AARP.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office posted a warning of a “juror scam” on its Facebook account, becoming the second area organization to use social media to make area citizens aware of the fraud attempt in the past two months.

According to this week’s post, a person — who happened to be a friend of a Whatcom County Superior Court judge — reported a phone call from what appeared to be the Sheriff’s Office with a person identifying themselves as a deputy telling her there was a warrant for her arrest for failing to appear for jury duty. The scammer told her to meet a deputy in front of the courthouse and that she needed to stay on the phone and bring $800 with her.

“Fortunately the victim checked with an attorney and her friend, the judge,” the post read. “We are glad that no financial or other harm came to her. This is a continuing scam that tries to intimidate people and frighten them into either transferring funds or purchasing ‘green dot cards’ and providing (their) account numbers and PIN.”

The post advised not to give information to anyone you don’t know over the phone or make a financial transaction with a caller demanding bail money or alleging there is a warrant for arrest.

“Law enforcement, nor the courts, never make calls of this nature to take care of legal matters,” the post read. “Phone numbers of agencies can be easily ‘spoofed’ by the scammers to make the caller appear to be legitimate. If you receive a suspicious call claiming to be from a government agency, one can always call the agency back directly to verify the information.”

The sheriff’s warning comes about two months after a similar alert was issued by What-Comm 911 — the dispatch service for eight county police agencies — on its Facebook page. As previously reported by The Bellingham Herald, Claudia Murphy said Bellingham Police received four reports of similar juror scams in late December and early January.

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.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has declared March “Fraud Prevention Month” — displaying tips throughout the month to help avoid various types of fraud that are springing up. One of the first topics covered was what to do if you suspect you have been a victim and the importance of reporting fraud attempts and offered these tips:

Collect all documents, receipts, copies, emails or text messages from a fraud attempt.

Make a report to a local law enforcement agency, ensuring that they are aware of what scams are targeting their residents.

Contact the financial institution where money was sent to report the incident.

Use the “report abuse” or “report an ad” options on websites if you suspect the fraud attempt happened online somewhere, such as Facebook, eBay or on an online classified ad.

If you have been victimized, place flags on your accounts with all three credit bureaus to monitor future activity.

Watch out for scams to recover money you lost. According to the Anti-Fraud Centre, victims often are targeted a second or third time by people who promise to recover money that is lost.

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.