Jury Duty Scam Percolating In Thurston County
THURSTON COUNTY - We've heard the warnings many times before: don't give out your personal information unless you know who you're talking to.
But what if the person says they're with the courts? And goes on to threaten you and tell you you're in trouble?
That's the newest scam in Thurston County and it has court administrators sending out the alarm.
Jury duty can be tough. Giving up at least a week of your regular life to sit in judgment during someone else's trial. But it shouldn't cost you your identity.
"This, right away was very disturbing," sighs Thurston County Jury Administrator Deanna Hauger.
It's the newest identity theft scam. Someone, pretending to work for Thurston County Courts, phoned a woman telling her she'd missed jury duty and threatened her with a $500 fine.
The woman, intimidated by the voice on the phone, gave the man her personal information, including her Social Security number.
But Administrator Hauger says that would never happen. The form that Thurston County mails out to potential jurors does ask a number of personal questions like where you work and whether you're married. But nowhere on this form do they ever ask for a person's Social Security number.
And as for asking for a Social Security number on the telephone? Hauger says, "that would never happen."
The courts are seeing an increase in identity theft cases. But this is the first time anyone's used the court's name as a way to get to victims. And that bothers everyone involved.
"This is different," says Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee, "because this affects just the core of what we do here, and that is depending upon citizens to volunteer their time."
Both the court system and the sheriff's office are concerned and want to get the word out about this scam and any other, because with identity theft on the rise, there's almost a new scam every day.
Chief Criminal Deputy Dan Kimball says, "we see this all the time, I talk to my fraud detectives and they'll say, 'Hey, did you hear about this one?' Every day it seems like there's something new out there."
So the word from Thurston County? Don't listen to that voice on the phone. If they want you for a jury, their summons will come in the mail.
So far, Thurston County only knows of one victim but they expect others. If you have been phoned like this, you could have been scammed. Contact the Thurston County Sheriff's Office.