BALTIMORE — Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is warning consumers of a scam in which thieves posing as law enforcement swindle money from Marylanders by threatening arrest for missing jury duty or failure to appear as a witness.
Anyone can fall victim to this sophisticated scam. Reports indicate that it is affecting Marylanders in several counties. Here is what consumers report.
The scammer calls a potential victim, claiming falsely to be calling from a local police department or sheriff’s office to tell them that they have missed a court date. The scammer may leave a message for a call back, and the caller ID often indicates a local area code. If the victim calls the number back, a recording suggests that they reached a legitimate law enforcement office. Once the caller is connected to a live person, that person tells the victim they missed jury duty, that a certified notice was signed by someone at their home, and that a bench warrant for their arrest has been issued for failure to attend jury duty and contempt of court.
In some reported cases, the scammer tells the victim that they must meet in person to resolve the issue. The scammer may provide the victim with an address belonging to an actual law enforcement location to appear legitimate. But once the victim arrives at that location, the scammer will then ask for payment (generally by gift card, prepaid cash card, or wire transfer) to immediately resolve the issue.
In other cases, the scammer tells the victim that there is a fine due for missing the court appearance, and that the victim cannot go to the local law enforcement department or they will be arrested. The scammer tells the victim that they can only pay the fine by wiring funds—no cash or checks are accepted. They may also tell the victim that if they pay the fine within a designated time that they only need to pay a portion of the fine.
Once the victim agrees to pay the fine, the scammer provides instruction on how to pay, and then will likely tell the victim that they must stay on the phone until the payment is complete. In a complaint received by the Consumer Protection Division, the scammer instructed the victim to use a MoneyPak card to pay the fine.
Under no circumstances should you pay any money, whether through MoneyPak or any other quick money transfer, to any person or group that claims to be a law enforcement officer even if they threaten you with arrest or fine. Nor should you email or reveal by telephone any personal information to anyone unless it is an exchange that you initiated.
The Maryland Courts have also issued an alert about this scam. Call our Consumer Protection Hotline at 410-528-8662 to speak with someone if you have questions about this or any other scam.