The Ohio County Sheriff's Department is warning area residents about a phone scam in which the caller attempts to extract money from victims by informing them they failed to appear for jury duty.
Officials became aware of the scam when a would-be victim reported it to Circuit Judge James Mazzone's office Wednesday morning. The caller reportedly claimed to be a bailiff named Lt. Donaldson, and told the targets that to avoid a bench warrant for skipping jury duty, they needed to purchase a Green Dot MoneyPak card from Walmart or Family Dollar for specific amounts of money.
The caller then tells the victim to report the number back to him, giving him access to to funds on the card.
MoneyPak cards are prepaid, reloadable debit cards sold at tens of thousands of locations around the country. They can be a convenient way to pay bills or fund PayPal accounts, but in recent years they have also become an avenue for criminals to target consumers.
Chief Deputy Drage Flick said residents should know that is not the way law enforcement deals with people who do not show up for jury duty.
"We come knocking on your door with a warrant to bring you in," Flick said.
Ohio County Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller said she's aware of three or four similar instances reported since last week.
"You should never give out social security or credit card information over the phone," she said. "And this office would never call to tell you you missed jury duty, and then say you can get out of the problem."
Miller's office informs county residents in the jury pool by postcard as to when they need to call to receive additional information about reporting to court. Miller said her office typically follows up with a reminder by phone.
Flick said it's too early to tell whether this was an isolated incident or if the scam artist is casting a wide net looking for victims.
"We have gotten no other complaints at this time," he said.
Flick said anyone who has received such a call should call the sheriff's department at 304-234-3860, or their respective law enforcement agency for those outside Ohio County.
Staff Writer Joselyn King contributed to this report.