A friend of mine received a phone call to work last week. They left a message
“This is King County Sheriff’s Dept, please call us back immediately.”
“Ma’am you never appeared for jury duty, despite being summoned twice by mail. You are in serious trouble with the judge and have a duty to attend a court hearing today”
Despite protestations that no mail and summons’s had ever been received, the Sheriff was insistent that it could all be resolved at the King County courthouse as long as my friend got in the car immediately, made her way to the courthouse, attended a hearing and paid a small fine, and he suggested the judge would expunge all charges with just a slap on the wrist. Again, protesting that she had work and lived in a remote part of King county, the Sheriff stated clearly that her failure to follow his instructions would lead to arrest and subsequent imprisonment. She had no choice.
Dumping all her current projects, leaving her home and making haste for the city, she asked for a phone number to call on the way there, this, after another conversation where she’d been asked to note her odometer reading in her car and asked to stay in regular contact with the Sheriff in order that the hearing with the judge could be arranged as she neared the courthouse to avoid any unnecessary delays.
Suspicious? Nope, she was convinced this was genuine, the phone number checking out and the facts read back to her regarding her personal life, confirmed several times.
I’m sure you’ve all gathered where this is going now, but read on anyway.
She was then asked to go into one of two supermarkets to buy money vouchers with cash. She did this and read off the serial numbers to the Sheriff, his explanation to her was that this was the system the court used for fines and again, although probably not believable when reading my article, it was more than believable to the lady about to be scammed. Doing as she was asked, she bought the vouchers, called the Sheriff’s dept, read out the numbers and drove on. Of course, when she arrived at the courthouse, she discovered she’d been scammed and she’d lost $2000. The people at the courthouse told her there’d been many like her and that the people responsible had been using this scam for many months.
Feeling completely violated, with no recourse, she asked me to write her story in my blog to warn others not to fall for what seemed like a genuine situation and one that was completely believable at the time it was happening. She panicked, being a good upstanding citizen and fearing jail time, she has never been in any trouble with the law in her entire life. She did what seemed right and what she was asked to do and although she’s by no means a gullible individual, she was completely taken in by this scam and has had several sleepless nights since, wondering if there was indeed anything more she could have done to ‘out’ these criminals. Having now given statements to the police and having now been told she’s not alone as far as this particular scam goes, life is returning to normal, but will not be the same for quite sometime due to her inability to accept her fate.
Look out, do not take calls from strange numbers and if asked to appear before anyone official, or asked to pay money to anyone, no matter how genuine they might seem, ask for it to be put in writing first, on official letterhead with clear instructions and a number to call that checks out on line.
Right, I am off to enjoy my holiday weekend. Stay safe and stay out of trouble.