By Karen Zautyk
Recently, The Observer warned readers of a nationwide phone scam in which fraudsters pretending to be IRS agents are bilking money from unsuspecting taxpayers.
Well, there’s another phone scam out there, one that should be of specific interest to our readers in the Bergen County communities of North Arlington and Lyndhurst. However, everyone should be wary. The fraud is spreading to other areas.
Authorities have reported that Bergen County residents have been receiving calls from phony “Sheriff ’s Office” employees threatening them with arrest because they allegedly failed to show up for jury duty. It’s all a fraud.
The callers tell the targets that, because they missed jury duty, there is a warrant out for their arrest. In lieu of being arrested, they are advised, they can pay a fine via a credit card or debit card.
But once you’ve provided your card number to these phonies, you’re in bigger trouble than any fictitious “warrant” would have caused you.
Some targets have also been told to transfer money using prepaid cards such as Green Dot Money-Pak or to wire the money.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino noted that his office has recently received “numerous complaints” about the scam.
In a press release, Saudino explained that the individuals committing the fraud are utilizing pre-paid cell phones with a 201 area code designation to appear as if they are from the Bergen County area.
The juror fraud, though, is not isolated to Bergen County. It is now occurring in neighboring counties. In this area, we presume, the scamsters will ID themselves as being from the Hudson or Essex County Sheriff or some other law enforcement/government agency and may use a 973 area code as well as 201.
“If a government agency is to contact you via phone, it will be done utilizing a bona fide publicized government phone number,” Saudino said.
He added: “All notices regarding jury duty come through the mail, including summonses to report for jury duty, and failure to report for jury duty. These notices are mailed directly from the New Jersey Judiciary Jury Management Office and give you specific information on who to contact, and how to comply with the summons.”
Saudino cautions, “You should not give out any personal information or identification over the phone and are advised not to transfer any money using prepaid debit cards on behalf of a government agency.
“If you are being asked for your personal information from an unsolicited phone number, hang up immediately and notify your local authorities.
“No government agency will tell you to make payments to them through a bank or wire transfer.”
Any Bergen County resident who believes they may have been exposed to this or a similar type fraud is asked to contact either the Sheriff’s Office at 201- 646-2222, www.bergentip.com/, or their local police department.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding jury duty, refer to the Bergen County Superior Court Jury Management Office at www. judiciary.state.nj.us/juryreporting/bergen, or contact the jury office at 201-527- 2290.