Courts cry over cunning call-center criminals crafting convincing cons

Surprise, the bad guys have helpdesks too!

US federal courts have alerted Americans to a fresh crop of scams in which conmen are setting up call centers and impersonating government agencies.

The advisory describes how criminals are pretending to be US marshals and court agents, demanding victims hand over money for a supposed failure to appear for jury duty.

"This year's scams are more aggressive and sophisticated than we've seen in years past," said Melissa Muir, director of administrative services for the US District Court of Western Washington.

"Scammers are setting up call centers, establishing call-back protocols and using specific names and designated court hearing times."

According to the courts, criminals are not only calling people with demands for cash, but carrying on the ruse by setting up numbers for the target to call back and hand over payment details. By using specific names and reporting supposed court dates missed and threatening arrest, the scammers could further scare their targets into paying up on the spot.

The courts note that they do not send collection agents to claim fines for failure to appear for jury duty, and in the event a person is charged for skipping out, they would be brought before a judge in person before a fine would be levied.

While payment scams are nothing new, the additional lengths crooks have been going to in order to convince their victims of legitimacy has not typically been seen before.

The alert comes in the wake of another report from Pennsylvania detailing a sophisticated email scam in which an attacker impersonated police and used actual GPS data to infect members of the public with a malware payload.

The court said that if you are contacted by someone claiming to be a federal agent or other law enforcement officer and demanding money, the best course of action is to hang up and call your courthouse to check for yourself. ®

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