A jury summons and a list of every address you’ve had. How scams are getting more sophisticated
SPOKANE, Wash. — We hear about scams all the time. You may think they are easy to spot, and many are, but they’re becoming more sophisticated by the day.
Scammers target anyone and everyone, and recently, one was convincing enough, it almost fooled me.
Oftentimes, when we see these obvious scams, we think “who would fall for this?” I’ve asked myself that before but this scam was more convincing than I ever thought possible.
I received a voicemail in the middle of a Thursday.
“Yes this is Sergeant Curtis Huff with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. I am calling to establish contact with one Emily Blume.”
It started out like any other voicemail a reporter might get, but quickly, I became nervous.
“It is very important that I speak with you as soon as possible about an ongoing matter that I’m investigating,” the voicemail continued.
Once they got me on the phone, they proceeded to tell me I had two citations: one for failing to appear and another for contempt of court. They gave me a serial number for each of these.
They continued by claiming I have a disposition because on March 7 at 9:00 AM, “Emily Blume failed to report for jury selection and made no attempt to absence.”
They (accurately) read me all previous home addresses. They told me this is a Class-C felony citation, and that I could proceed criminally or civilly. They included that if I choose to proceed criminally, and I’m ever pulled over, I’ll be looking at jail times and hefty fines.
Meanwhile, they told me to write this all down so I have it for a record (which is why, of course, I do have this all to reference) and they said “I don’t want to alarm you.”
As I was on the phone with them, I started looking up the names and numbers they referenced, and they all reflected accurately on the Tacoma Courthouse website.
I began to think to myself, “You know, I feel like I may have had a jury selection sent but I just threw it in the recycle bin because I don’t live in Tacoma anymore.”
Then, the moment I knew something wasn’t right: “You can pay by Venmo, Zelle, or Apple Pay.”
We’ve done these stories before, so right away an alarm went off in my head.
READ: How to avoid Zelle scams — and what to do if you can’t
“You understand this sounds very fishy, and a little bit alarming, right?” I said.
They told me the “Captain” will call me on the other line. That phone number is also affiliated with the Tacoma Courthouse.
I hung up the call and dialed the number for the Pierce County District Court to confirm my record was clean. Right away, they explained that this is a common scam.
Honestly, I was scared as this was all unfolding and United States Marshal Craig Thayer, J.D., explained to me “they’re preying on that vulnerability.”
Thayer says you can protect yourself from these scams by looking out for the tell-tale signs.
“Law enforcement is not going to ask for payment over the phone. They’re not going to ask for your personal information over the phone,” he explained.
You should also look out for an alarming tone, with a sense of urgency.
“Very often they ask people to post the bond as you indicated or they’re going to lose something, lose their job, or a custody element with their children or other consequences that have a real heartstring emotional effect on the person they’re trying to scam,” Thayer told me. “In your case, they even had the second individual involved in the scam that corroborated this.”
Often times, the fraudsters will identify the U.S. Marshal Service as the one that will come knocking on your door if you don’t cooperate.
“That is not the case,” Thayer told me.
So, now you know what the red flags sound like.
“Never, never divulge that information over the phone,” Thayer said. “Do not divulge that information to them.”
“I’ve been at this a very long time, and I’m never surprised at the things criminals are willing to do to victimize people,” he added.
I was surprised once, and I’ll probably never be surprised again.
“You’re a little more cautious now I’m sure,” he said, concluding our conversation.
Yes, I am.
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