Police warn residents of jury duty phone scam

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published June 7, 2023


OAKLAND COUNTY — Police in Oakland County are warning residents to be wary of an uptick in phone scams from people impersonating local police and threatening residents’ arrest because they didn’t show up for jury service.

In the past three weeks, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said, at least a dozen residents have been contacted by callers posing as Sheriff’s Office personnel.

In each instance, the impersonator says there is an arrest warrant out because the victim didn’t appear for jury duty in either federal or state court. They say the only way to set the warrant aside is to pay a $900 cash bond — in either bitcoin or gift cards.

The caller, Bouchard noted, often uses the actual name of a person who is a deputy or commander in the Sheriff’s Office and provides the victim with a phone number they say will connect them to the Sheriff’s Office.

When the victim calls the provided number, a recorded message states the caller has reached the Sheriff’s Office and all personnel are busy on other calls. The caller is then asked to leave a callback number, which the scammer uses to call them back, giving specific instructions as to how to make the necessary transaction, including providing an account number for the bitcoin deposit or the registration numbers for the gift cards.

Bouchard said at least two of the victims in Oakland County did pay the requested $900. Earlier victims were told they must pay as much as $5,000 to avoid arrest.

Bouchard said it is a scam if anyone ever calls and demands money over the phone.

“Sadly, we’re seeing an uptick in how many people are being hit with these phony phone calls. We will never demand immediate payment over the phone. Ever. Just hang up,” he said in a statement.

The Sheriff’s Office and the courts do not accept bitcoin or gift cards for cash bonds.

Representatives from both the U.S. District Court – Eastern Michigan District in Detroit and Oakland County Circuit Court said delinquent jurors would be contacted by mail, never by phone.

People with questions about the legitimacy of a call are urged to immediately hang up and call their local police department’s non-emergency number for verification.