‘Don’t be fooled,’ Sarasota County Clerk of Circuit Court warns, as jury scams on the rise

Tips offered to help members of public protect themselves

Image courtesy Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller

Karen E. Rushing, Sarasota County clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller, is warning the public “of a statewide surge in imposters calling residents and accusing them of missing jury duty, and it is occurring with increased frequency in Sarasota County.”

Residents “are being informed that there is an outstanding citation and/or warrant out for their arrest due to missing jury duty,” a news release explains. The caller presents himself or herself as an official of the Clerk’s Office or a judge, or impersonates a law enforcement officer, the release says. The caller requests that payment be made — “often by wire, ‘green dot’ loadable debit cards or other prepaid gift cards” — to avoid arrest and incarceration, the release adds. As with most scams,” the release notes, “jury duty scammers have a few versions, not all of which ask for money outright. In certain circumstances, the jury scam may be used to trick you into providing sensitive information that can be used for identity theft.”

The release adds, “There is no such process at the Sarasota Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller’s office. Neither the Clerk and Comptroller, nor law enforcement employees initiate phone calls for missed jury duty. Nor will employees of either agency demand payment by phone or request personal financial information. Moreover, failure to appear for jury duty is not grounds for immediate arrest. Court-related communications are typically sent through normal mail.”

The release offers the following important tips to remember:

  • Jury summonses come in the mail, not by email or phone.
  • “If no jury summons was received, then ignore phone calls from anyone claiming to be calling about jury duty.
  • “The Clerk and Comptroller’s office will not contact you by phone for failure to appear for jury duty.
  • “The Clerk and Comptroller’s office will not phone or email you to request any type of payment for missing jury duty.
  • “If someone asks you to pay a fee or fine with a gift card, it is likely a scam.
  • “Ignore calls for immediate action because scammers will often try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency.
  • “Be wary of relying on Caller ID, as many phone numbers can be ‘spoofed,’ ” making a call appear as though it is coming from a legitimate source.
  • “If a caller threatens you, hang up and call 311 immediately.” The 311 number puts a person in touch with the Sarasota County Contact Center, whose employees can provide a wide array of assistance to the public, including connecting individuals with the Public Safety Communications Center.
  • “Do not give out financial or other personal information over the phone.”

The release further notes, “Protecting yourself against phone or email scams is simple: just hang up or do not reply to written communication. Unless you have initiated contact, never give your personal or financial information over the phone.”

Moreover, the release says, if a person receives a court-related call and is unsure about its authenticity, the person may call the Clerk and Comptroller’s Jury Office at 941-861-8000 for verification.