Aiken County court officials are urging residents to be aware of a new phone scam in which victims are told they have missed jury duty and must pay an outstanding fine in order to avoid being arrested.
An employee at the Aiken County magistrate's office on Richland Avenue told police on Monday that an elderly couple reported receiving a call from a man claiming to work for the Solicitor's Office, according to a report from the Aiken Department of Public Safety. The caller told the victims they had missed jury duty and were being fined $900. They were told to purchase a money card with the amount and to call him back with the number on the card so he could access the money.
The victims did not comply with the suspect, the report stated. They went to the magistrate's office to inquire about the legitimacy of the call and were told it was a scam. Neither victim wished to make a report.
A 72-year-old Aiken woman reported being contacted in a similar scam on Monday, according to a report from the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. She told officers a man called her and tried to scam her out of nearly $1,000.
The caller told the victim “if she gave him that amount of money, he would prevent her from getting a warrant for failure to appear for jury duty,” the report stated. He reportedly identified himself by the name “Earley” and told the victim he worked for a judge.
The victim did not give the caller any money and notified law enforcement.
Anita Knoepfle, of the Aiken County Clerk of Court's Office, said they received 12 to 15 calls about the scam on Monday. “Everyone that's come in has been very upset,” she said.
People who call or visit the clerk's office regarding the scam are asked to make a report with law enforcement.
The clerk's office will call people who don't show up for jury duty if they sent in their notice saying they would be there, but they do not fine people or issue bench warrants.
“There is no fine for missing jury duty. You will never be called and told you're going to be fined,” Knoepfle said.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.