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Polk County Sheriff's Office
Friday September 25th, 2015 :: 11:23 a.m. EDT


Sheriff Judd Warns Residents About Jury Duty Scam

Sheriff Judd is reminding residents that members of the Polk County Sheriff's Office will never, ever call residents and instruct them to purchase any sort of debit card or money order to pay off a fine for missed jury duty, an outstanding warrant, missed court date fee, red-light ticket fine, or legal fee.

In August and September 2015, PCSO investigated seven separate incidents where victims were contacted via telephone by people representing themselves as sworn law enforcement officers working for PCSO - in each of the cases, the caller identified himself as "Brian Williams," "Pat Harris," or "Dan Patton" and told the victim "you have a bench warrant issued for your arrest for failure to report to jury duty." The victim was then instructed to go to the nearest convenience store, purchase a PayPal card and load a designated amount of money onto it, and then give the activation number on the cards to the caller so that the fine for failing to appear could be processed, and the warrant cleared. The victim is either given a phone number to call back and speak to a "receptionist" or the caller calls the victim back himself. Once the money is transferred over the phone, the suspect's phone number is disconnected.

In two of the cases, convenience store clerks and/or people waiting in line at the convenience store told victims "this is a scam" and the victims did not purchase the Paypal cards, but reported it to PCSO instead. In two other cases, the victims were suspicious themselves and reported the incidents to PCSO instead of being victimized by the scammer.

In one of the cases, the victim gave the suspect $300 via Paypal card. In another case, the victim gave the suspect $1500 via Paypal card. In one of the cases, the victim gave the caller access to her bank account so that the caller could withdraw funds from it.

A similar scam occurred recently in the Jacksonville area, as reported to the media by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office earlier this month.

Please be reminded:

A member of PCSO or any other law enforcement agency is never going to call and demand payment to have a warrant cleared.
Scammers use the element of fear to coerce their victims. Do not be intimidated by a caller. Get as much information as you can, then hang up and report it to law enforcement.

If you receive a phone call in reference to jury duty, take down the caller's name, phone number, and department and ask to confirm with a supervisor.

Jury Duty summons' can be confirmed through the Clerk of Courts - do not take a caller's word for it that you have been summoned for Jury Duty.

Never give personal information to a stranger.

Be suspicious of phone calls from people attempting to collect a debt. Look up the phone number of the organization the caller claims to represent (not the number on the caller ID) and check on your account. Legitimate service providers do not accept payment via prepaid cards.

Seniors are considered easy prey to thieves, help keep elderly family members protected and prepared by informing them about this type of scam.

Contact Law Enforcement if you receive suspicious calls.

Polk County Sheriff's Office
1891 Jim Keene Boulevard
Winter Haven, FL 33880

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 863-298-6200

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