Weird pointless phone scam?
February 26, 2018 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Why would someone call and claim that I missed a court appearance? Is this a scam of some sort?

Yesterday, a "Lt. Steven Harris" called my home and spoke to my wife (I was away). He told her that I had been summoned to testify in a King County civil case, that I had in fact signed a hand-delivered summons, and the fact that I had not appeared in court last week meant that there was now a citation against me for no-showing.

Today I called the number "Lt. Harris" had left (206-712-2425) and spoke to him. I told him that I had zero knowledge of any summons or court case. He said that the summons had been delivered to my address and signed on Jan. 31 at 2:45pm. He asked if I would be willing to come in for a handwriting analysis and I said I would. He said he'd look into a few more things and call me back in 15 min.

I didn't hear back, and after a few hours I called his number--and this time it was disconnected!

Any ideas as to what's going on? This is in Seattle, so King County and the 206 area code fit. I'm pretty sure he mentioned the address of our condo, but not the unit number.
posted by mpark to Law & Government (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's a variant on the Jury Duty phone scam. The point is to panic someone into giving them money and/or personal information. Maybe he found a different victim in the 15 minutes and moved on, maybe they got shut down by the phone company.
posted by Candleman at 2:12 PM on February 26, 2018 [15 favorites]

Is there a reason you have not called the court and especially your lical police precinct to report this?

Impersonating a law enforcement officer is a felony, I believe. There is no way I would not report this.
posted by jbenben at 2:13 PM on February 26, 2018 [18 favorites]

Yep. What Candleman said. Read here.
posted by frumiousb at 2:14 PM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

So, just for future reference, if someone calls you claiming to be from a particular company or institution, don't call them back at their own number as a means of verification! Google the company/institution and contact them directly.

He asked if I would be willing to come in for a handwriting analysis and I said I would.

Also for future reference, this is...really not something a cop would ask for except in the most specialized of circumstances.

I'm sorry to say that by your responding at all, and by your vigorous follow-up, you may have gotten yourself promoted on a suckers' list. Use extra caution in the next few months.
posted by praemunire at 2:27 PM on February 26, 2018 [24 favorites]

definitely a scam. I play a game every time i get a call like this, see how long i can string them along (without divulging any real information) before they hangup realizing I'm just wasting their time. In a small way, I feel like I'm doing a public service by not allowing them to spend the same time to actually find a unfortunate victim (usually elders)

They have the system so wired, there's very little chance you or law enforcement be able to track them down and file any type of charges against them for fraud. Their whole scam is built on the difficulty of being able to track them down after they steal money from their victims.

I get bummed when they hangup after i make a claim or answer that is too outrageous. 'Can i send the money to you in cash in a briefcase?'
posted by edman at 3:23 PM on February 26, 2018

Not to pile on at all but you can completely ignore the phone number as being evidence of anything when you get any phone call. They'll call you from your own dang social security number if they feel like it.
posted by ftm at 3:45 PM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Didn't know this was even scam, but lots of helpful responses here. To add to what praemunire said: Whether I get a call claiming to be my bank, or I get an email claiming to be Google, I never call right back at that number or click on the link. I'd find Lt. Harris' number at the police station myself, or I'd go into my Google security settings myself. But I take one step before that if I have a phone number: I google the number. If it's a scam, sometimes it will show up on those "who called me?" websites where other people log complaints of suspicious calls. Or, if it doesn't appear on a government directory, etc., then I will be suspicious.

The 206 area code means nothing - savvy phone scammers can "spoof" any phone number they want to appear on your caller ID. This "Lt. Steven Harris" probably spoofs other area codes to match the area codes of all his prospective victims. I read a fascinating article about how some guy's phone number was "spoofed" and people thought he was calling them for scams, but it wasn't him. So he had to live with people constantly calling him at home, yelling at him for trying to scam them, when he had nothing to do with it. The guy gave up and changed his phone number because there was nothing he could do about it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:53 PM on February 26, 2018

Or, as it turns out, you could've simply googled "Lt. Steven Harris" and clicked the top result.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:56 PM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

Consider also that they simply want to record you saying "yes," and keep a careful eye on financials moving forward"
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

They definitely pick the court based on the number they're calling. I got a call on my google voice number (area 253) claiming I'd missed jury duty and to call the Pierce County Sheriff's department. But I'm in the 206 in King County, and haven't even been to Pierce in a few years; I certainly hadn't ever registered to vote there.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2018

Never call back a number you suspect to be a scam either, there's one that depends on you calling back to yell at them and them charging you sky high rates for the call.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:27 PM on February 27, 2018

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