Criminal Justice

Lawyer sends $1,000 to jury duty scammers who are refining their craft

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Jury duty scammers are growing so sophisticated that a Houston lawyer believed their claim that he would be arrested if he didn’t pay up.

Lawyer Keith Woods paid $1,000 to the scammers, report the Houston Chronicle and Click2Houston.

The scammers left a message on Woods’ phone when he wasn’t home, and when he returned the call he heard a message that he had reached the Harris County Sheriff’s office, he told the Houston Chronicle.

The scammers told Woods there were warrants for his arrest for missing jury duty, but he could take care of the problem by paying $1,000. Woods obliged. After figuring out he had been scammed, “I felt foolish,” Woods told the Chronicle.

Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel told the Houston Chronicle that the scammers are sharpening their skills. “In the past it was someone with a foreign accent telling you to send it to a P.O. box, using hard cash,” Daniel said.

Now the scammers ask their victims to buy a reloadable money card and to read the card number over the phone. “To appear legit, they’ll have you mail the card as proof of payment,” Daniel said.

Daniel says his office never places phone calls to people who miss jury duty. “You will receive a failure to appear notice in the mail from us,” he said.

Federal prosecutors indicted 51 prisoners and guards in January for running phone scams from a Georgia prison with contraband phones. Harris County Sheriff’s investigator Joshua Nowitz told the Houston Chronicle that Georgia prisoners may be running the Texas scam. “The scam is still continuing, and it’s being operated by the same groups of people in the same prisons,” he said.

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