Dallas County Sheriff's Department Warns Against ‘Jury Duty Scam' Phone Calls

The sheriff's office says it's easy to be tricked

Dallas County deputies are investigating after a man pretending to be a Dallas County Sheriff's deputy scammed a man out of $16,000 over the phone.

The sheriff's department said they're fighting a battle over a growing scam where individuals pretending to be deputies call people demanding over-the-phone payment for missed jury duty.

Deputies estimate there've been about a dozen victims so far this year, and countless more attempts on other residents, including Coppell homeowner Sandy Edwards.

When her phone rang a few weeks ago, her caller ID showed a sheriff's Department number. The man on the other end of the line said he was "Sergeant Jackson", and that Edwards' husband was in big trouble for missing jury duty. He told her there was an arrest warrant and his license had just been suspended.

"They said he missed jury duty. I said 'no, he didn’t. He had jury duty three months ago. He went down and did what he was supposed to do,'" Edwards said. "He said 'no, this was for the grand jury.' I said 'well, we never got a notice about that.' He said 'oh, that’s too bad you’re the sixth person I talked to today.'"

Of those six people he had called, Sergeant Jackson said half of them simply paid the fine over the phone to remove the arrest warrant. The man tried the same move on Edwards.

"[He said] 'all you have to do, we'll get the warrant lifted if you give me $485.17,'" she said. "It was such a curiously specific number."

Edwards works for a lawyer, and her daughter is a criminal defense attorney. She knew there was no warrant and that her husband's license wasn't suspended.

"When this happened I thought this guy is so smooth, he'd fool most people, he really would," she said. "I think I would have fallen for it if I didn’t know as much about the legal system as I do."

The Dallas County Sheriff's Department says this is a scam.

"I think it's frustrating for us mostly in the sense that we can't help these people. Most of the time when the money's gone, the money's gone," said Department Spokeswoman Melinda Urbina, who has been trying to fight back with frequent warnings on Twitter, Facebook and e-mail.

"I try to tell people that this jury scam is out there, and I put links to the Jury Services website so you can actually see if you missed jury duty, and there's contact numbers to call," she said.

There's been about a dozen victims this year. One victim paid $16,000 through pre-paid cards.

"The amounts have varied. The largest is $16,000. The smallest is around $500. Sometimes they get a few thousand. They change it up," Urbina said.

The sheriff's department said the scammers refer to real judges on the phone calls and use know their courtroom numbers. Spoofing software allows them make it seem like the phone call is really coming from the sheriff's department.

"They're doing their research. They know the judges and what courtrooms they work in," Urbina said.

And the scammers seem to be getting more bold this month.

"I would think maybe it has to do with tax time. It's the beginning of the year, people are getting their finances in order and budgeting for the whole year," Urbina said. "And before long, people are getting tax returns back so they'll have a bit more money in their accounts."

Sandy Edwards wants to share an important warning.

"There are too many that are too trusting about something like this, and he knows who to target," she said.

The sheriff's department said they would never ask for money over the phone.

"We’re not authorized to take money from individuals. We’re just here to help and investigate crimes," Urbina said.

There is a fine for missing jury duty, but the Jury Services Unit corresponds primarily through mail. You can check online if you have upcoming jury duty---or missed a date.

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