I got an email this past week addressed to my wife saying that she had to appear in court and bring all of her documents. It didn't say where or what time. I had received similar emails within the past few months and they, too, were scams aimed at acquiring our personal information. Neither of us had any reason to be in court.
I discussed this with Rita Fulginiti, County Clerk in Cape May County, NJ, and she traced the scammer to a city in Oklahoma and provided the following information.
Some scams crop up repeatedly with fake law firm notices that claim you are being summoned to appear in court, but the "court notice" is actually malware. The email urges you to download the attached court notice to find out why and when you are being summoned. And it notes that if you do not attend the hearing the judge may hear the case in your absence.
DON'T DO IT! Because the file is malware, it can infect your computer and hunt for personal and banking information.
Fulginiti says courts do not typically summon people via email, text message or phone. They normally communicate by mail unless you have requested otherwise. Don't call a number in the email. Be aware of variations. Watch out for different law firm names and twists on the scam.
A similar con tells victims that they missed or are being summoned for jury duty. Ignore calls for immediate action. Scammers try to get you to act before you think by creating a sense of urgency. Don't fall for it.
Another scam involves phone calls from unknown people who claim to have information about a citizen's application for disability benefits and offer assistance with the citizen's claim. Social Security Inspector General Patrick O'Carroll warns citizens to beware of such phone calls from people who are "phishng" for personal information such as Social Security numbers.
There are several variations of this type of phone phishing scam, which could lead to identity theft and/or government benefit theft. The Internal Revenue Service recently warned of similar phone calls from people impersonating IRS agents who request information to process a citizen's tax return. As with other government agencies, the IRS only communicates by mail.
Urging citizens to protect their personal information, Inspector General O'Carroll states, "You should never provide your Social Security number, bank account numbers or other personal information by telephone or over the Internet unless you are extremely confident of the sources to which you are providing the information." Good advice.
Beau Weisman, Editor