A few days ago, a friend of mine got a call from a former co-worker asking his help with a possible crisis.
His wife had received a call from a person claiming to be an employee of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, telling her that she had failed to show up for jury duty and would have to pay a $1,000 fine immediately to avoid arrest.
She was given a number to call.
When her husband called it, the woman answering the phone said he had reached the PCSO, and instructed him to bring the money to an address near Winter Haven.
“We might be able to get this solved today,” the woman said.
He also was told to remain on the phone until the cash was delivered. He and my friend, though skeptical of the legitimacy of the call, responded to the address, which turned out to be the PCSO operations center.
On arrival, they were told that the call was a scam.
The number they had been given was not a PCSO number, and the name of the person claiming to be a deputy was unknown to the department. The person who told his intended victim to bring the money to the PCSO operations center was nowhere to be found.
The intended victim of the scam had not, in fact, been called for jury duty. But the scammer sounded convincing enough to alarm her. Her decision to notify her husband of the call, and his decision to call a trusted friend for help, kept the scam from working, saving the intended victim $1,000.
But my friend since has learned that the scam has been pulled multiple times recently in Polk County, and one victim reportedly lost $2,000. The “missing juror” scam is one of several con games that regularly makes the rounds throughout the nation. Frequently, the target is a senior citizen.
We have long been warned: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Scams of this sort give rise to a new warning: “If it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is.”
The defense against scams on both ends of the spectrum is the same: Seniors (among whom I count myself) and anyone else who receives a dubious call and is uncertain how to respond should call the police, or a trusted friend or relative, for advice.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. In the past month, both he and his friend Mary have received calls in which the callers represented themselves as their grandchildren. Both calls were phony. They hung up before the callers could give them a song and dance about needing money to get out of a jam with the law, which is another popular scam.)