Scammers steal identities via prank calls

The real court system will never ask for a person’s Social Security number.

Kevin Behr

For people who dread receiving letters calling them to jury duty, a recent telephone scam could worry them even more.

Since September 2005, scammers have called people in 11 states telling them a warrant for their arrest has been issued, according to a report by the FBI.

After the victim tells the caller that he or she never received a letter, the caller asks for a name, date of birth and Social Security number to clear up the mistake.

Once that information is transmitted over the phone, the victim’s identity has officially been stolen.

Kyle Christopherson, spokesperson for the Minnesota Judicial Branch, said courts don’t call citizens regarding jury duty.

“We would never contact them by phone or request any personal information,” he said. “We already have the information that we need.”

In the case that someone missed jury duty, the court simply sends another letter, Christopherson said. If missed a second time, the judge will issue a bench warrant for an arrest, he said.

These are usually handled by the local sheriff’s department and won’t garner a phone call either, Christopherson said.

The only time a citizen will receive a phone call from the courts, he said, is after the person has sent in a jury questionnaire acknowledging his or her compliance with the jury service. And even then, a phone call is a rarity, Christopherson said.

Minneapolis police Lt. Steve Kincaid, of the Forgery Fraud Unit, said he hasn’t heard of any jury duty scam cases in Minneapolis.

Even if there were cases, his unit would be unable to investigate unless there was a “significant monetary loss,” Kincaid said.

He said the resources aren’t available to investigate cases where very little was lost.

He warned people to be extra cautious about unsolicited phone calls.

“Never give out this information over the phone or e-mail,” Kincaid said. “Nobody legitimate is going to telephone or e-mail and solicit sensitive, personal information.”

People who receive these types of calls should contact law enforcement and check their caller ID to see where the call originates, he said.

Steve Johnson, University police deputy chief, said people are always looking for new scams to get others’ data.

“We haven’t had many identity thefts reported to the University police,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going on.”

People need to be aware that this scam is out there, Johnson said.

Brit Collver, a child psychology senior, knows the annoyance of having personal data stolen.

A few months ago, her credit card number was stolen online, and the thief racked up hundreds of dollars worth of fraudulent charges, she said. And she has to pay off the balance in order to retain her card, Collver said.

“It’s not a significant amount of money, but it’s a hassle being a college student without a lot of extra cash,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”