RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A Richmond woman is urging others to be on the lookout after she says she was the target of a jury duty scam.
Barbara Steele has lived in the city for about seven years, and said she got an alarming phone call about a week and a half ago. The caller claimed to be a sheriff’s deputy.
“You were supposed to show up for jury duty this morning in the city of Richmond, and you failed to show,” Steele said as she explained the contents of the call. “Because you failed to show, the judge has issued a bench warrant for your arrest and/or a fine for not showing.”
Steele said at first, she panicked.
“I, of course, was panicky because back in December, I had sent in a form that the City of Richmond had sent me to apply for jury duty,” she explained. “Or to have jury duty sometime this spring, and I couldn’t remember what month it was.”
She said she asked the caller if there could be some leniency. She says the caller offered her a chance to pay the thousands of dollars in fines over the phone.
“1,000 dollars for each — and he labeled them as class C misdemeanors,” she said. “It all sounded reasonable.”
According to Steele, the caller told her once she had paid over the phone she could go to the sheriff’s office and sign off on an affidavit stating that it was the first time she had missed jury duty. The caller said they would then refund her the majority of the money, excluding court costs.
Steele was contemplating sending the caller money when a co-worker warned her of scammers asking for money for failure of jury duty appearances. She decided to investigate, and called the jury’s office.
“I called the City of Richmond jury office,” she explained. “Quick to point out that this indeed a scam they had dealt with in the past. She thought that it had stopped since they had dealt with it in December, and was amazed to hear it was back up and running.”
Steele said she’s thankful she realized it was a scam before it was too late.
“I feel like I had done all the right things, but got caught up in the fact that it was professional sounding.”
She’s now urging other Richmond residents to be aware that this scam could happen to anyone.
“I would’ve said before that, I’m not sure I would fall for something like that,” she said. “I absolutely almost did.”
The Richmond City Sheriff’s Office said they’ve been made aware of the influx of cold calls from scammers.
Authorities say the caller will most likely identify themselves as an officer or sheriff’s deputy, and will say you have failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is out for your arrest. They added that callers are now asking their victims to meet them at different areas with cash, in lieu of being arrested.
Officials add the sheriff’s office will never ask anyone for confidential information or payment over the phone. They will also never call regarding an arrest, or ask anyone to pay to prevent being arrested due to not showing up for jury duty.
“If anything is suspicious sounding, looking – anyone reputable would not mind you hanging up and calling back,” Steele warned. “You can always then check it out. Never feel rushed into making a decision.”