Federal Way police warn residents of reported jury duty scam

The Federal Way Police Department has received at least a dozen calls from residents since December 2014, reporting a similar scam.

The Federal Way Police Department has received at least a dozen calls from residents since December 2014, reporting a similar scam.

The caller, who claims to be with the King County Sheriff’s Office or local police department, has been telling citizens that they were summoned to jury duty but failed to appear and therefore have been fined. The caller also tells victims a warrant would be issued for their arrest if the fine is not paid.

The amount of the fine has varied between reports. The caller will then instruct the victim to purchase prepaid reload cards at a grocery store, then request a call back once they are in hand, said Cathy Schrock, police spokeswoman.

In some cases, the scammer told victims the King County Sheriff’s Office will come pick up the card at their residence. When the victim returns the call, the caller says, “Oh, we are very busy and will not make it to the house, please provide the PIN on the back of the card,” Schrock said.

“The callers are very convincing and can be intimidating to individuals,” she said.

The police department posted a warning on their Facebook page.

“When these people are told they are speaking to a deputy or sergeant, they get scared and tend to respond,” Schrock said. “They have a longstanding respect for government officials and don’t question the call as much as they might if the scammer identified themselves in a different way.”

She mentioned the elderly are the most targeted demographic for phone scams.

“They aren’t tied into the same amount of social media the younger generations are so there is no check-in balance in front of them all the time,” she said. “They also aren’t as technical-savvy, so can’t look things up to verify as quickly.”

Washington State Courts posted a similar warning on their website last January. The courts said fraudulent email was being widely distributed around the United States with the subject line “Urgent court notice NR#73230” (or another random number), claiming the receiver is scheduled to appear in “the court of Washington” on Jan. 17. The receiver was then instructed to open the attached court notice and read it thoroughly and is warned about not appearing. This was a malware email and downloaded a virus to the computer if anyone opened the attachment, according to the court report.

Schrock said some who call in regarding a fraudulent situation never file a police report.

“These types of scams usually go unreported,” she said.

A Federal Way resident did report a jury duty scam she received on Jan. 8. According to the police report, the woman received a call from a male claiming to be Deputy Greg Allen with the King County Sheriff’s Office. The male told the victim she owed $5,200 in fines for missing “grand jury duty” and instructed her to send him money via the Internet within two hours or police would come to her house and arrest her.

The woman called 911 to report the phone call and shortly after, the male called back. When she told him she had called police, he called her a “scum” and hung up on her. Police tried to call the suspect’s number, but no one answered. They found no record of the number online, according to the police report.

Schrock said another victim was at a bank attempting to get money to the person who called her when she was informed by a teller this was most likely a scam.

“Oftentimes, this has happened in other cases,” Schrock said. “People working at money order windows are generally not afraid to tell the requester when they believe a scam is occurring.”

She said if residents receive a call that is suspicious, or they believe may be a scam, they should hang up the phone or ask the caller a number of questions such as, “what is your name?” and “what agency did you say you are calling from?”

Victims should then call the police non-emergency number at 253-835-2121 with information regarding the details of the call to report to police.

“No one from the Federal Way Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, or court would call and ask for payment of any kind over the phone,” Schrock said. “Anyone who does not respond to a jury summons would be given a chance to explain his or her nonappearance to a judge before any fine is imposed.”

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