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Judge warns people to beware of new scam

FARMINGTON – While the scam hasn’t necessarily hit this area yet, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte is cautioning people to be aware of it.

Bogus calls are circulating the country from individuals posing as officers of state and federal courts in an attempt to steal personal information that can be used for identity theft.

Typically, the scammer will call an individual claiming they work with a federal or state court and will inform the intended victim that he or she failed to show up for jury duty.

After threatening arrest, the caller will then ask for confidential information – such as a Social Security number, date of birth and credit card number – which they will then use to make purchases, obtain cash, raid bank accounts or even take out loans.

“These individuals are using the old ‘phishing’ scam, but this one has the new element of fraudulently threatening the intended victim with arrest,” Attorney General Jay Nixon said. “Missourians need to remember, never give out personal financial information to people you don’t know. Legitimate organizations will never ask for it.”

According to Mike Buenger, state court administrator for OSCA, courts usually contact potential jurors by mail – not by telephone. Courts that issue notice for jury duty do not ask nor do they need to obtain an individual’s Social Security number or credit card number.

“It is a very disturbing and outrageous development to see that people are hijacking our jury system and preying on the civic duty of citizens to engage in fraud and theft,” Buenger said.

Judge Pratte hasn’t heard that the scam has been occurring in the counties he presides over – St. Francois, Madison, Washington, and Ste. Genevieve.

“I don’t know of any instances here but I don’t want our jurors being taken advantage of,” he said.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of this scam should contact their local authorities and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 392-8222.

Several states have reported the emergence of the scam, including Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

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