Tim Chitwood

Tell the jury conman you’ve got a hostage

Here’s an idea for a scam: Get a post office box under the name CCG and mail downtown motorists warnings they have unpaid parking tickets, and if they don’t send you $60, they will be arrested.

They will be arrested by that guy on the Metra Parking Enforcement Cushman, and it has no room for a prisoner, so they’ll have to trot to jail handcuffed to it.

A lot of people wouldn’t fall for that. But some people might.

The U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal say some conman’s posing as a federal agent and telling old people they missed jury duty, and they’ll go to jail if they don’t pay a fine.

“The Federal Courts do not call or email prospective jurors or ask for money or personal information and they never serve an arrest warrant by phone,” the feds say.

That’s true: The federal government already has all your personal information, and it doesn’t want to tip you off.

“Real, valid arrest warrants are always served in person,” they say. Another good point: If you’re under arrest, you’ll find out when the SWAT team shows up.

They don’t take credit cards: “The court also does not demand the payment of money in lieu of arrest, nor does it accept payment via prepaid card.”

And they don’t spoof.

“Spoofing” is making the caller ID show the call is from the government, the feds say:

“Scammers are even using technology to mask their phone number on caller ID and make it appear as if the call is actually coming from the court or a government agency. This tactic is called ‘spoofing’ and has become very common with scammers nationwide. In some cases, the scammer may carry the scheme out via email with an official looking email address.”

If scammers are using only email to swindle old people, then they’re hardly even trying. That’s not just criminal, it’s lazy.

Next thing you know they’ll be faking profiles on Facebook: “Dirk Danger, federal agent (photo of George Clooney). Status: Married to Agent Debbie Danger (thumbnail of Angelina Jolie). Likes: Glock 9mm, high-speed chases, flashing badge, collecting fines from old people so they don’t go to federal prison for missing jury duty (laughing emoticon).”

On Facebook fake agents could just post their official jury fine citations to other people’s statuses. (“Pay this or go to jail! Lol!”) And both Agents Dirk and Debbie Danger could go back and “like” it. And so could Agent Tawnie Hyde (thumbnail of Scarlett Johansson), with whom Dirk soon could be having a passionate affair and change his “status” to single. Then Angelina Jolie’s headshot would be free to PM or personal-message you (heart emoticon), if you provided some contact information (winking emoticon) such as a credit card number, security code and expiration date.

Sometimes the con artist impersonates a particular agent, the feds say: “To make the scheme believable, the scammer provides the victim with factual information such as the title and badge number of a law enforcement officer or court official, the name of a federal judge, and the courthouse address.”

If a fake federal agent called you, wouldn’t you be tempted to mess with him? “Is Agent Scully there?” you could ask. “What about Agent Mulder? Have they found the aliens yet?” Or you could jack the slide on a pistol over the phone and yell: “Come and get me, m@#$%&*r! I’ve got a hostage!” And have your wife scream.

If you so frightened a conman he called 911 on you, that would be hilarious. After you explained it to the SWAT team.

So anyway, as the feds say, “If you receive a jury duty related call or email, do not provide any personal information or send money.” Report it to the authorities.

Save your money. You might need it to pay a parking ticket.