Number of juror scam victims grows

Aug. 26, 2014 @ 04:21 PM

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating more reports of Durham residents being targeted in a scam involving jury duty.

The most recent extortion attempt was made Saturday against a woman who got a call from a man posing as the fictitious “Lt. Blackwell” from the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.
The caller said he had two warrants against her for failing to appear for jury duty. He said she owed fines and fees totaling $1,396, and told her to go to a store that sells “green dot cards” -- prepaid MasterCard and Visa cards -- and get two cards for $500 each. Meanwhile, he said, he would check with his supervisor and try to get the fees cut so she would owe an even $1,000.
The caller, whose voice was described as a man 45 to 55 years old, said that after she got the cards, he’d meet her at the Durham County Courthouse on Dillard Street. The woman and her husband went to a store on Roxboro Road to buy the cards, but the husband first decided to call a relative who is a probation officer, who ran her information and determined she had no warrants.
The woman then called the Sheriff’s Office and spoke to a legitimate sheriff’s employee, who told her there is no Lt. Blackwell employed there and that she was being scammed.
A sheriff’s investigator spoke to the manager of the Roxboro Road store, who said that if the victims had bought the green dot cards and called the suspect back, he probably would have asked for the card numbers. Then, he could have transferred the money to another green dot card, and the transaction would have been untraceable because no personal information is provided when the card is purchased.
Meanwhile, sheriff’s detectives are investigating similar scams that happened Friday to four Durham residents.
Sheriff’s Capt. Don Baker said the calls were apparently made by the same person from out of state. Baker said no money changed hands in any of the scam attempts, and no arrests have been made.
He said that because the calls were made across state lines, the FBI might join the investigation.
Shelley Lynch, public affairs specialist for the FBI in Charlotte, would not say Tuesday if the bureau is investigating the cases. But she said the FBI is aware of “a recent surge” involving similar scams, which she said have been going on in other locations since 2006.
Baker emphasized that neither the sheriff’s office nor other law enforcement agencies will ask for personal information, such as a Social Security or credit card number, over the phone. Anyone who gets a suspicious call can contact the sheriff’s office at 919-560-0897.
“Be vigilant and careful,” Baker cautioned. “There are people out there trying to take your money.”