The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 22, 2012

Court cautions against phone hoax

SUNBURY — Residents are being warned about a rash of prank text and phone messages about jury duty that are circulating throughout the commonwealth. The messages come from friends or family and go something like this:

“Hey, your name is in the paper! The courthouse has your name on a failure-to-appear list. U missed jury duty. U need to call them ASAP. Here’s the number ... 704-319-xxxx.”

When you call the number, an automated, authoritative male voice gives a spiel about how the message “is an urgent notice from the National Justice Center ... you failed to appear for jury duty last Monday morning ... You are now facing either a $500 fine or a 30-day prison sentence, since it’s a Class 3 misdemeanor.”

The voice finally gives you three options: 1. Pay the fine, 2. Arrange to start serving your jail sentence or 3. Pass the message on to your “gullible friends” to prolong the hoax.

The Northumberland County courts, as well as courts around the state, report they’ve fielded a number of local inquiries from concerned citizens who have received the messages. “This prank is causing confusion and anxiety and has resulted in disruptions and undue work for court employees, which translates to a waste of tax dollars,” said Court Administrator of Pennsylvania Zygmont A. Pines. “Please don’t forward these messages if you receive one. Our focus needs to be on providing the efficient administration of justice for the commonwealth and its citizens.”

        o

On the same topic, be on the alert for scam calls from “court officers” saying you’ve been selected for jury duty or worse, that you have failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is out for your arrest.

You may say you never received a notice and the caller will say he needs some information to verify the situation — that information may be your birth date, Social Security number and even a credit card number.

Caught off guard and fearing arrest, people will often give the caller what he’s asking for, just to clear up the situation. What they end up with is theft of their identity, and sometimes their bank accounts.

“We will never call you for any personal information over the phone,” says Brandy L. Yasenchak, Northumberland County District Court administrator. If you have legitimately been selected for jury duty, you may be called “but not with an automated message,” Yasenchak says, and that will be followed up with something in writing and sent by mail.

If you somehow miss the first notice that you have been selected for jury duty, a second and third notice will be sent to you. If you still fail to respond, then that’s when you might expect to be warned of being fined.

Have questions about jury service? Call your county court administrator’s office. A complete listing of court administrators is available on the Pennsylvania Judiciary Web site at: www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/DCAs.htm.

 

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