PROVO — Provo police are once again reminding citizens not to fall for phone scams that threaten incarceration for missing jury duty.
The warning comes after a Provo woman fell victim and purchased more than $4,000 in prepaid banking cards and sent them to a person she believed was a Utah County sheriff's deputy.
"She thought she was doing the right thing," said Provo Police Sgt. Nisha King.
King said the scam began on March 6 when a Provo woman received a call at work
"She received a spoofed phone call that appeared to be from the Utah County Sheriff's Office. She was told that she had a warrant for her arrest because she had missed jury duty. She was told that she could pay to have the warrant suspended, otherwise she would be incarcerated for three days. The money, she was told, would be returned to her once she met with the deputy in person to rectify the situation," according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case.
King said the caller then asked for the woman's cellphone number. From there, they contacted her and told her to buy "$2,030 worth of MoneyPak cards from Smith's grocery stores in different cities," the warrant states.
The woman complied and then gave the caller the prepaid card numbers over the phone. But King said the scammer called back and claimed the cards did not go through and that she needed to purchase an additional $2,030 in prepaid cards. Again, the woman complied, King said.
"They caught her in a crisis situation where she was worried and didn't want to go jail, just as any other normal personal wouldn't want to go to jail. She's trying to comply and do as she's asked, but not realizing that no law enforcement agency or the IRS — they're not calling you over the phone. Either someone will come to your doorstep or you'll receive something in the mail," she said.
When the scammer called back a third time, the woman felt something wasn't right. She refused to pay them again and immediately called police, King said. Because of that, she was able to get some of the money from her second round of gift card buying back.
But King said whether it's a jury scam or an IRS scam, the case brings up several reminders for the public.
"No law enforcement agency is going to call you over the phone and request you to send money, particularly to go and get some prepaid Green Dot, or whatever it is, some prepaid MoneyPak card," she said.
Furthermore, fines like that will typically be paid at the courthouse, she said.Comment on this story
King said a good rule is "trust and verify." It's good to trust someone claiming to be law enforcement, she said. But it's also good to verify by getting a name, badge number and point of contact. Then further verify that information either by calling that law enforcement agency or checking online, King said.
In this case, King said investigators were able to obtain information from a search warrant that lead them to another state. She said the case was still active, and detectives in the undisclosed state had taken over the investigation.
The Utah State Courts has set up a page on its website that gives suggestions on how not to become victim of a jury scam.