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U.S. Attorney for Utah warns of arrest warrant telephone scam

Published August 8, 2013 11:31 am

Payment or handcuffs • Bogus court 'clerk' claims arrest coming, without some quick cash.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It comes like a telephonic round house blow: a Salt Lake City federal court clerk tells you a warrant has been issued for your arrest because, unwittingly, you dodged jury duty.

Your phone rang late in the afternoon, and the caller presses hard, saying you only have until court closes, at 5 p.m., to ante up $400 on a MoneyPak debit card (conveniently available at many retail stores) — or it's the gray bar hotel for you.

Welcome to the latest telephone scam, says U.S. Attorney David Barlow.

If you fall for it, you rush to buy the card then call the "clerk" back at the number he or she provided and spill the card's serial number.

Say so long, adios, farewell and bye-bye to your $400.

"When the serial number of the card is given to someone or falls into the hands of a scammer, they have instant access to your money and can drain the money from your card," Barlow said. "Unlike a credit card, the transaction is untraceable and cannot be reversed or challenged."

The rule of thumb? Never give a MoneyPak serial number to anyone you don't know.

None of the individuals who reported receiving these scam calls were actually called for jury duty. Had they not panicked, but called the U.S. District Court first, they would have known that — and not be out their hard-earned dollars.

"[If someone fails] to appear for jury duty, a court official will contact them to determine why they failed to appear," Barlow said. "Individuals are never fined for non-appearance without receiving an order from the court directing them to appear before the judge, the opportunity to explain their non-appearance to the judge, and a written order from the court setting the amount of the fine."

Most importantly, payment of a fine is never demanded via a telephone call.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims