5 On Your Side

'How could we be so stupid:' Local couple warns others after falling for jury duty scam

A local couple caught off guard by a phone call said fear brought them, along with so many others, to fall for a growing and costly scam.

Posted Updated

Monica Laliberte
, WRAL executive producer/consumer reporter
WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — A local couple caught off guard by a phone call said fear brought them, along with so many others, to fall for a growing and costly scam.

The husband and wife said they received a phone call from somebody pretending to be a Wake County sheriff’s deputy, convincing the couple that the woman had missed jury duty.

“I just want to report it so maybe some other poor sucker like us doesn’t get hit like we did,” the husband said.

The retired couple said they are so embarrassed by the incident that they do not want to be identified after being targeted by the scam.

The wife said that she received a call saying there were citations against her and that she would have to bring money to the courthouse to settle the matter. The couple was told the woman faced counts of failure to appear, failure to respond and contempt of court.

“He said there’s really two options: we can come to your house and we can take your wife to jail, or you can comply by bringing prepaid gift cards down here. I said, ‘Why can’t we bring you a credit card?’ and he said, ‘Well, because there’s all this kind of fraud going on with credit cards.’”

The husband said the caller told the couple that prepaid cards were the only way to ensure the payment was legitimate.

“I said, “Why don’t we just make out a bank check?’ [He said] ‘Well, we can’t handle a bank check down here at the courthouse,’” the husband recounted.

The caller, who had a Southern accent and called from what appeared to be a local number, told the couple they had to stay on the phone so he could keep track of them on the way to the courthouse “like a mobile escort,” the husband said.

“I even asked him, ‘Well, I know parking is a problem down there, where do you suggest we park?’ And they said, ‘Oh, there’s a deck on Martin Street,’” the wife said.

Following orders, the couple bought $6,000 in prepaid cards.

“I said to him, ‘Donnie must have really trained you well for you to know how to do all this stuff with all the Walmart cards and Google cards and whatever’ and he said, ‘Yup, Sheriff Harrison really has taught us well in the past,’” the husband said.

At the time the couple received the phone call, Donnie Harrison was the Wake County sheriff. It was another detail that helped convince the couple the call was real and the money would pay the wife’s bond and keep her out of jail.

As the couple drove to the courthouse, they read the gift card numbers to the man on the phone. The man then hung up and did not call back.

“He’s gone. He’s not on the phone anymore, disappeared,” the husband said.

The couple called 911 to report the incident, and the responding deputy told them it was a known scam.

“We come home feeling really, really sucker punched, like you’d been kicked in the gut,” the husband said.

“We just felt sick and like how could we be so stupid to have let this happen to us,” the wife added.

The North Carolina Attorney General received 95 complaints this year about a similar scam. Combined, 11 people have lost $34,989 to the jury duty scam.

As a reminder, legitimate public officials will not call and threaten arrest for missing jury duty, not paying your taxes or for any other reason. Anytime you are asked to pay money you owe using a gift card, it is a scam.

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