Castaic resident Bruce Tracy knew the message on his answering machine was no different from the rest of the usual scam messages. So, he deleted it.
“The message was to get me into the Santa Clarita Court to appear on a grand jury but it seemed fake,” he said.
Several weeks later, he connected the dots after receiving a call from a person claiming to be Capt. Mark Bowman from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. The man told Tracy he had to stop by the station to clear up a warrant for failing to appear for a grand jury.
The call with the man impersonating law enforcement extended as he took Tracy through what he called a confusing process of what he had to do, which included driving to the station and meeting with deputies who would help. The scammer also provided fake deputy names, and citation and court numbers.
“So far, there was no reason to doubt what I was hearing,” he said in a Facebook post about the scam. “I had received a call to appear on a grand jury, which I had ignored, and I wasn’t being asked to do anything that would make me suspicious.”
Tracy then prepared to head to the station, but the individual impersonating law enforcement said he would have to remain on the line until he arrived at the station. During the ride, the scammer attempted to convince Tracy to get $3 nonrefundable vouchers with citation numbers printed on them to avoid an hours-long process without the vouchers. At some point he was told to pay a much larger amount of more than $3,000, which would be refunded.
When he arrived at the station, without the vouchers, deputies ran his license and found no existing warrants.
The goal of the scam was to get Tracy to pre-pay the fines he supposedly owned. The scammer had also targeted someone else he knew, Tracy said, adding that he saw a social media report of a similar scam attempted several years ago in Arizona.
When it comes to any kind of scam, sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said, “Don’t take every phone call to be 100-percent legitimate. Any time someone gets a call for personal information or money, we recommend to take down their information and say you’ll follow up with them.”
For cases similar to Tracy’s, Somoano said looking into the source the scammer claims to represent, such as calling the sheriff’s station about his situation, is one way to verify the situation. He adds that any situation where money is requested via an unusual pay method such as prepaid cards or third-party money orders is a red flag.
Telephone fraud involving jury duty has occurred for several years. For those who have already been contacted or provided personal information, the FBI recommends monitoring one’s account statements, and credit reports, and to contact the local FBI office.
For more information about fraud and to find a local telephone directory, visit fbi.gov or call the SCV Sheriff’s Station at 661-255-1121.