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For immediate release – Friday, October 19, 2007.
Contact Bob Brammer, Iowa Attorney General’s Office – 515-281-6699, or
Marjorie Krahn, Clerk of Court, U.S. District Court, Des Moines - (515) 284-6248, or
Scott Johnson, Chief Deputy Clerk, U.S. District Court – 515-284-6450.

“Jury-Duty Scam” Hitting Iowa

Attorney General Tom Miller and Federal and State Court officials issued a warning Friday that Iowans are receiving false telephone calls claiming the Iowans are in trouble for failing to show up for jury duty. [Go to statement of Chief Judge Robert Pratt, Federal District Court.]

“It’s likely an identity theft scheme or some other mischief,” Miller said. “The callers pretend to be an officer of the state or federal court. They say a person is in trouble and may even be arrested for failing to show up for jury duty -- and then they try to get personal information or verify information such as the person’s Social Security number or date of birth or even credit card number.” Miller said another speculation is that some of the callers could be bill collectors using illegal tactics.

“Our courts obviously don’t work that way, but the call can be alarming or unsettling, and it can trick people into giving out crucial personal information,” Miller said. “We just want to spread the warning so Iowans don’t fall for a jury-duty scam.”

Federal District Court Chief Judge Robert Pratt said the courts in fact contact potential jurors by mail and not by telephone – and they never ask for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other sensitive personal information.

Miller said the jury-duty scam is known around the nation, but this is the first time his office has seen numerous reports of it hitting Iowa. At least nine or ten Iowans have contacted federal or state court offices to ask about questionable jury-duty phone calls they received in the last few days. He said he assumed far more Iowans are receiving such calls.

Miller said the jury-duty scam is another variation of “phishing” – when con-artists try to trick people into giving key personal information, usually over the phone or Internet. “Never give personal information unless you initiate the contact,” he said.

Iowans who receive “jury-duty scam” calls are urged to report them to their local court offices, or to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 888-777-4590 (toll-free) or 515-281-5926.

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