HOUSTON – If you're a no-show for jury duty, you could be fined or charged with contempt of court.
But someone claiming to be from the Harris County Sheriff's Office is calling residents, trying to persuade them to pay a bogus fine, after telling them they failed to answer their summons by appearing for jury duty.
"If people are not careful, they could easily fall into the trap," Daniel Caballero said.
In at least two cases, the man said his name was Lt. Brian Owens with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. He instructed the potential victims to go to a popular grocery store chain.
In one instance he told them to put the money on a certain type of card to pay the fine. In another, he told a woman she needed to buy a secure bond card and take it to the Sheriff's Office.
"I would think it's obvious. I would not even continue that phone call unless I had a letter from court itself," Joey Aoun said.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office said it is aware of the scheme and so is the Harris County District Clerk's Office. On its website there is a message letting citizens know they will never be called, emailed or asked for their Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. Nor will payment ever be demanded over the phone for failure to appear, including placing any amount of money on a green dot card to pay a fine.
"It's so easy for them to get a hold of your personal information. nothing is really private anymore," Yen Vo said.