A Honolulu man is sharing his story after nearly getting duped by a jury duty scam.
A few weeks ago, James Chan responded to a voicemail left on his phone about what he thought was a missed jury duty summons that had turned into a warrant for his arrest.
“The thing was at the time, I had been called in for jury duty about a couple months ago,” Chan said, “but the jury duty that I was called in for was canceled. I was thinking to myself, shoot, did I make a mistake? So I thought oh gosh, I’d better take this seriously.”
Chan says the caller identified himself as Sgt. Cook from U.S. District Court, and explained in detail report numbers, laws that Chan had broken, and the consequences of jail time.
“He was very polite the whole time,” Chan said. “He called me sir. He was very patient with me. Anytime I had questions, he stopped talking and he let me speak and he repeated what I said.”
Chan was told his fine totaled $2,953.27.
“I said okay, so how do I pay this fine? And that’s when he said you need to come in today. This was a Saturday. He said you need to come in today and what you need to do is go get this type of card, and it sounded like a voucher card.”
The demands didn’t stop.
“I went home and I decided to look up the address that he gave me, so I Googled the address.”
That address the scammer gave Chan was 333 Ala Moana Boulevard. It’s a vacant lot right across the street from the federal courthouse.
That’s when Chan got suspicious, asking the man if he could bring an attorney with him. The caller agreed, but then abruptly hung up.
“Then I tried to call the number back and then it had like a busy dial tone, and for the next hour, I couldn’t get through to it and at that point, that’s when I knew this guy was totally going to scam me,” Chan said. “What would have happened if I actually got the voucher and showed up? Who knows? It was a vacant lot in downtown. It was a Saturday, and no one would have been there, kind of a sketchy situation.”
Since the incident, Chan says he’s more cautious about responding to unfamiliar phone calls, emails, and text messages.
We spoke with the Hawaii Better Business Bureau about what to do if you get a similar phone call.
Experts say Chan is not alone in encountering these types of scams, and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
The BBB says courts will not pressure you into quick decisions. If you get a call during non-business hours, that should be a red flag.
Also, be wary of any unusual forms of payment like prepaid vouchers or money cards.
If you’re concerned about missing a jury duty summons or court date, call the court directly.
“One thing in particular about this scam that this consumer was sharing with us was the scammer called him back several times, so it seemed more and more real the more he talked to him, because he was very consistent with his numbers, with his dates,” said Jason Kama, Hawaii Better Business Bureau director of marketing. “Just because there’s a consistency that just means that they’re getting very good.”
If you have a consumer concern or are interested in becoming an action line volunteer, give us a call at 591-0222 weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or send an email to email@example.com.