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Scam Alert: Polk County Sheriff's Office warns of phone calls threatening arrest for missing jury duty

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Posted at 11:45 AM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 19:48:16-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Polk County Sheriff's Office wants you to be on alert for scammers calling and asking you to pay them for missing jury duty or face being arrested.

On Friday, Lisa Deese of Winter Haven received a call from someone claiming to be a U.S. Marshal and saying she had a failure to appear for jury duty.

“He said he was Sgt. Harper from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and I had been sent a jury summons and gave an address to my old work and said it had been sent there. Was I aware of it?" Deese said.

The scammer told Deese she had to pay a $2,400 fine to avoid arrest.

“I was freaking out, yes of course. I'd never been in trouble in my life and I sure don’t want to be arrested,” said Deese.

She went to the bank and withdrew the money. “I had to buy these cards from a retailer. That I needed to get cash first, buy these cards, that I needed to take them to a lady named Edna Sheppard at the Polk County Sheriff’s Department,” said Deese.

After getting the money Deese felt something was not right about the situation, so she called the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy called the scammer's phone number and realized the scammer created a fake PCSO automated answering message.

"If someone calls you and tells you that you will be arrested for missing jury duty unless you pay them some money, hang up it's a scam. These unscrupulous people can be very convincing by posing as deputies and making it look like an incoming call is from the Sheriff's Office that's how good they are at being bad," said Sheriff Grady Judd.

Jury duty scam calls, according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office, have also been reported in Citrus County, Collier County, Lake County, and St. Johns County.

PCSO shared the following tips to keep in mind:

  • A frequent tactic by scammers is to demand money using gift cards or pre-paid credit cards.
  • Scammers tend to be aggressive; their goal is to get your money quickly and often react negatively and pushy when you ask too many questions.
  • If you are suspicious about who you are talking to, tell the caller you will hang up and call the main number back. Then go onto the internet and look up the real phone number.
    • For example, if someone tells you they are calling from the Polk County Sheriff's Office, hang up with them and call the PCSO main number (863-298-6200). This way, you know who you are speaking with.
  • When in doubt about phone callers asking for money, call the sheriff's office. A deputy will be happy to help you and keep you from being victimized.