Jury duty email a scam, U.S. courts warn

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The federal court system is warning about a new juror email phishing scam that emerged last week and so far has been reported in at least 14 U.S. court districts, including Pittsburgh.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said residents around the country are receiving emails claiming they have been selected for jury service and demanding that they return an attached online form that requests personal information such as Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number and even mother’s maiden name.

According to the email, anyone who fails to provide the information will be ordered to court to explain their failure and could face fines and jail.

The emails look official and are purportedly from the “National Ejuror Program,” which is a real online registration program used in about 80 U.S. district courts, including Pittsburgh. But the email is not connected to the real eJuror program.

The Administrative Office said eJuror never asks that personal identification information be sent directly by email response.

The federal courts always use the U.S. mail to contact prospective jurors by letter, and those letters tell jury participants how to access a secure online connection.

“In addition, Social Security numbers are NEVER required when completing your jury forms on-line through our eJuror program,” wrote Terri Morder, jury administration supervisor in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, on the court’s website.

She posted the warning Thursday, and similar warnings have appeared on court sites around the country, from Maryland to Mississippi.

It’s a federal crime to impersonate a federal court employee, and the matter has been turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service and the Justice Department. The latest information indicates the scheme may have originated in Poland, but no one knows for sure yet.

Anyone suspecting a fraudulent email is asked to contact the clerk’s office at the nearest district court. Anyone who responded to the email should take steps to safeguard personal and financial information, which may include contacting major credit bureaus, the Administrative Office said.

Residents in Western Pennsylvania who receive the email should call 412-208-7540.

Ms. Morder said last week that one resident in the local district had called as of Thursday, when the email appears to have first surfaced.

The federal court system has recently warned about a similar scam in which citizens have been targeted by phone calls and threatened with prosecution for failing to comply with jury service. Those calls have also requested personal data.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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