Identity thieves find new scam

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 27, 2006

Although the new wave of technology has brought with it many ways to steal identities, wreck finances and ruin credit, identity thieves have resorted to an old way to get private information – the telephone.

“Whenever someone calls asking for a lot of information over the phone, you need to be aware,” circuit 4 district attorney Michael Jackson said. “Be leery about giving away your social security number to anyone.”

The con, which has come to be known as the “jury duty scam,” involves as scammer who pretends to be a local court worker and needs private information from a resident because the unknowing victim was, or is, expected for jury duty.

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The scammer tells the victim he is expected to show for jury duty and that he or she must first verify a social security number and date of birth before sending the notice.

Another approach is for the scammer to tell the victim he or she was supposed to report for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for the victim’s arrest for skipping out.

After the victim states he or she never received a notice, the scammer asks for a date of birth, social security number and, sometimes, even a credit cared number to supposedly verify they were never sent a notice.

According to an article at, an actual court official will contact a person concerning jury duty by mail and would never ask for any private information over the phone.

Yet, it has been reported that people on 11 states, including Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state, have received phone calls from people claiming to be from the district court, but Attorney General Troy King said identity theft could happen to anyone.

“People ask, ‘what does an identity theft victim look like?’ Simply put, they look like any of us,” King said. “Everyone’s a target, and anyone can become a victim.”

As a rule of thumb, Jackson said it’s best to remember that if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

“But you can’t be as clear on some things,” Jackson said, “Just keep in mind that anytime someone’s asking you a bunch of questions about personal information, be leery.”

Under King’s new bill passed in February, all instances of identity theft are a class C felony and the statue of limitation for both criminal and civil actions has been increased from three years at the most, to seven. The new law also corrects fraudulent information on public and private records.

Jackson also advises people to be watchful of con artists asking for bank account information to put money in their accounts, and not to leave checkbooks and other items with personal information laying around the workplace.

“Those are the kind of things criminals look for,” he said.