DOBSON — Surry County court and law enforcement officials are warning local residents about a jury scam under way in the area.
Teresa O’Dell, clerk of court for Surry, and Sheriff Graham Atkinson have been notified that county residents are receiving an email notification for jury duty, which directs them to a link below the notice.
But anyone contacted in such a manner can be assured it is not legitimate, according to an alert issued Friday on their behalf.
“The sheriff and I want to advise our citizens this is a scam, and do not click on the link,” O’Dell explained.
Employing such an email for local jury service is not normal procedure.
“The clerk’s office and the sheriff’s office will never send out a jury notification nor summons by email,” O’Dell added. “All jurors in Surry County are notified by regular mail.”
Anyone with related questions or concerns can call Jeri Hinson at the clerk’s office at 336-386-3700.
Federal jury issue
Jury-related scams have joined a long list of others perpetrated recently to target unwitting consumers.
In addition to the bogus notifications pertaining to local jury duty, O’Dell mentioned a federal jury duty scheme making its rounds. This type can include people receiving a notice saying they missed jury duty.
Surry County citizens might find themselves summoned for “federal jury duty” by email or by fax claiming to be from the jury office requesting that they pay a fine or provide personal information because of missing jury duty or to simply acknowledge the email.
If that occurs, “please do not open any attachments or respond,” the local clerk of court said.
Anyone who receives such a notification should immediately contact the Federal Jury Office at 336-332-6040, according to O’Dell.
“However, you will be asked to participate in filing out a questionnaire that you receive in the mail from the Federal Jury Office. Fill out the questionnaire and return same immediately. If it is determined that you meet the required qualifications, you most likely will receive a summons in six to 12 months.”
Man loses $30,000
O’Dell said in addition to jury duty scams, her office has become aware of other such efforts.
“Scammers are calling our phones or hacking our Internet (site) in an attempt to obtain our personal information,” the court clerk related.
“Just last week, an elderly man called the clerk’s office and wanted to know if a will had been filed in our county for someone who had died.” Scammers had told the man that he was an heir to a million-dollar trust and in order to receive all monies he had to send cash for the preparation of legal documents.
“This gentleman mailed the scammers $30,000 in advance,” O’Dell continued. “It just broke my heart.”
Unfortunately, such incidents are not uncommon, Sheriff Atkinson said Friday afternoon.
“You’d be surprised at the number of people we take reports from,” he said of Surry Sheriff’s Office personnel.
Atkinson said one of the most common scams involves people being notified that they have won something, but must pay taxes on the prize before it can be received. In another, a consumer is told he or she has been sent a check, but its sum is greater than intended and the recipient is asked to pay the difference.
“I know one in particular that sent every dollar they had because they thought they had won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes,” the sheriff said.
The legitimate sweepstakes operators will notify a winner in person, and won’t require paying anything to receive a prize.
“And they are not going to contact you by email or a letter to let you know you have won,” Atkinson said.
The sheriff pointed out that scammers rely on sophisticated systems. These include telephone numbers that can’t be tracked, post office box addresses that change constantly and eventual electronic transfers of cash outside the country to locations that don’t respond to U.S law enforcement inquiries.
“That money is gone,” Atkinson said.
The sheriff advises local residents to always remember that if something sounds too good to be true, this is usually the case.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.