Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 15, 2018

Fairfield resident alerts community of phone scam

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 31, 2018

A Fairfield resident who received a scam phone call wants to warn others so they don’t fall victim to the same tactic.

Ron Wilson said he received a call from someone claiming to be “Officer Jones” from the Jefferson County Law Center. The man left a message on Wilson’s phone asking him to call a number about “a legal matter.” The number the man gave was 641-819-3013.

 

Sounds convincing

“He sounded like a police officer, so I wondered if I should call back. Since it was a 641 number, I thought it was legitimate,” Wilson said. “It was an American talking for sure.”

Wilson called the number and talked to a woman who sounded like a dispatcher. She answered the phone by saying, “This is the Jefferson County Law Center. May I help you?” Wilson told her of the message he received, and the woman then transferred the call to “Officer Jones.”

The man asked Wilson for his name, which Wilson gave. The man said, “Is this Ronald S. Wilson?” which is in fact Wilson’s middle initial. The man asked for Wilson’s address and Social Security number, which Wilson gave.

The man told Wilson, “We have to serve a warrant for your arrest for failure to show up for jury selection.” He said the Jefferson County Courthouse sent out letters a few weeks prior, and Wilson was on the list of people who failed to appear.

“I told him I never received a letter for jury selection,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘Yes, I’m sorry about that. These letters were not sent out by certified mail, and sometimes the post office can make a mistake, but we still have to serve this warrant on you.’”

The man said an officer would appear at Wilson’s house to arrest him within 24 hours. Wilson said he would rather continue the conversation in person at the law center. The man said that, if Wilson appeared at the law center, officers would have to arrest him immediately.

 

Asking for money

The man gave Wilson three options: to be arrested at the law center, to be arrested at his house, or “rectify the situation” by posting bond, for which he would be refunded when he appeared in court, or so he was told. The man said the bond would be $623.50. Wilson told the man he would post the bond.

The man instructed Wilson to call him back using a cell phone instead of a landline.

“At that point, I was starting to get suspicious,” Wilson said. “I was wondering why he would need me to call on my cell phone. The other thing was that when he talked about not everyone receiving a letter, he sounded less professional.”

Wilson hung up and searched for the Jefferson County Law Center’s number in the phone book. He said he spoke to the sheriff about the matter, and gave him the number that the man had given him earlier. The sheriff told him that was the wrong number and that it was a scam call.

Wilson said this is not the first scam call he has received. He received one a few years ago when he was informed he had won a $1 million award from Random House Publishing. He said it’s hard to track down the scammers because they frequently change the numbers they use.

“I’d like people to know about this so they don’t get scammed,” Wilson said. “The bad part is that they got my Social Security number. The man sounded so much like a police officer, and the woman sounded so much like a dispatcher, and they had me convinced for a few minutes this was real.”

 

Jury summons

Jenni Nelson, clerk of court for Wapello, Jefferson and Van Buren counties, said her office would never ask for personal information over the phone.

The initial contact between the court and the public regarding jury duty comes in the form of a summons sent through the mail. It does not ask residents for their Social Security number, just their name, address, date of birth and information pertinent to a jury trial, such as whether they have been convicted of a crime.

“The only time we’d ever call is if we had a jury trial set and a person failed to appear,” Nelson said.

Jury summons are mailed first-class from the Jefferson County Clerk of Court. Summons are sent to residents randomly using several databases of people in the county who own property, have a driver’s license, have registered a vehicle, etc. Those who don’t reside in the county are ineligible to serve on a jury here.

“You just have to indicate that you don’t reside here, and we’ll take you off the list,” Nelson said.

If someone fails to appear for jury duty, the clerk of court sends them a letter informing them of their absence. If they fail to appear multiple times, they may be asked to serve multiple terms of jury duty and are subject to being held in contempt of court.

“Normally, we give people the benefit of the doubt and send them a letter in the mail, but we could file a contempt action against them,” Nelson said. “If we were to file that, it would be served by the sheriff. The sheriff would take the paperwork to their house and tell them they had a certain number of days to respond to the contempt action.”

 

 

 

 

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