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Lexington woman targeted by 'Jury Duty' phone scam

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It started with a call Tuesday evening around 6 p.m., saying Margaret Banks had missed a jury duty summons, and the call seemed very official.

"It was an '859' number," Banks said the caller even knew her name.

"This message is for Margaret Banks, this is Lieutenant Harris with the warrants division," said a male's voice on the recording. For Banks, the message was alarming.

"I mean I've never had a speeding ticket! This was major for me and I was pretty upset over it."

In a panic, she called the number given in hopes of clearing her name.

"He spoke with the 'police tone,' very stern," she recalled.

The man on the other end of the line warned that she would be arrested for missing jury duty, but because she was a "special case" she could get off with a $500 ($499 to be specific) fine paid with a Greendot Money Pak card.

The scammer stayed in character the entire time, Banks said, "He even called me back and gave me a court date."

The Better Business Bureau said this is aptly called a "jury duty" phone scam and it happens around the country. Just a short time after sending the money card, Banks spoke with her daughter-in-law, whom she says is a lawyer, only to learn that she was victimized.

"He was so believable," said Banks.

After hearing the message and how official it sounded, I called the number back and flip the script on the scammers.

"Warrants division," started a male's voice.

"Yes, I was calling for Lieutenant Harris," I replied and waited for nearly two minutes before a voice came back on the line.

"Lieutenant Harris," he said.

After a brief set up, I established that I was a reporter with WKYT. "I've got a message from a lady, who said she got a call from you at this number, saying she missed a jury summons and that she needed to send you $500."

"Sir, is this some sort of joke?" he responed.

We continued back-and-forth for a few seconds before the voice became aggravated.

"I'm actually an officer of the law, okay. If you want to call and play pranks, I will trace this phone call and come and have you arrested, okay?" he threatened.

I answered that I'd be happier just to meet him in person so I could ask these questions. Then I continued to ask a few more questions that went unanswered, before he responed, "I do not advise you be calling the police, making prank phone calls."

I asked one more question but he hung up. I called back and said we'd been disconnected but the was again hung up on.

Banks has taken her case to the real investigators but still she said, "It's embarrassing, really. Me of all people, I woudn't have thought I'd ever done that, but I did. $500."

Which is why she now cautions everyone to question every call.

The Better Business Bureau continues the warning to say that law enforcement officials do not call people on the phone to warn them of court charges, nor do they demand payment of fines.


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