Police warn of jury duty scam

Devin Kelly

Anchorage police say a phone scam where callers impersonate police officers has in recent days defrauded at least two victims, costing them hundreds of dollars.

Scammers call their victims, police say, and give the name of an Anchorage Police Department officer. They tell the target a warrant has been issued because they failed to show up for jury duty.

To avoid arrest, the fake cop tells the target to go to Wal-Mart and buy a pre-paid debit card. The cards are non-traceable, and the funds can immediately be withdrawn, said Jennifer Castro, police spokeswoman.

The scam first surfaced in August, when police received more than 50 reports of the calls.

In the most recent cases, the scammers are calling from blocked numbers, and using tactics like keeping the victim on the phone until the transaction is completed, Castro said. Police have received at least four reports since Friday. In two of those cases, the victims transferred money.

At 6:13 p.m. on Friday, the fake cop called from a blocked number and convinced one victim to complete a money transfer of $1,865. The scammer stayed on the phone as the victim got in the car and drove to Wal-Mart to buy the cash card, Castro said.

In another call, at 1:53 p.m. on Monday, a victim handed over two cash cards totaling $1,917 to a scammer claiming to be an APD lieutenant.

In both cases, Castro said, the scammers were demanding restitution and a fine for not showing up in court.

The callers were reportedly aggressive. In another case, one target in Palmer reported receiving a call at 6:05 p.m. on Sunday from someone telling them they missed jury duty in Anchorage.

The victim asked the scammer for the name of the fake cop's supervisor and the supervisor's phone number, and "the scammer got upset and made threats that police would be at his home shortly," Castro wrote.

The Alaska Court System said in a Tuesday statement that it does not try to collect money from anyone who misses jury duty, and does not send police to people's houses to collect unpaid fines for failing to serve as a juror.

Castro also stressed that APD does not make phone calls about arrest warrants for a person missing jury duty.

"We wouldn't have sergeants calling you on the weekend, asking you for money," she said.

Anyone who receives this type of call is being asked to report the case to the Anchorage Police Department at 907-786-8900.

Separately, the Alaska Court System warned on Tuesday of an email scam involving court dates.

The emails, which have been reported as recently as Monday, claim that the recipient has a court case or pending legal issue in Alaska, and gives as false date for a court hearing.

Officials said there have been several reported instances of the emails. Anyone who receives such a message should not respond, and should not open any links, which might contain viruses, officials said.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.