NORMAN, Okla. - A terrifying scam call had a woman in a panic she was going to jail for missing jury duty if she didn't shell out $500. It's the first time a scammer had gotten the better of her, and she said it was because it sounded completely legitimate from beginning to end.
Karie Stow and her husband got a call on voicemail from a man claiming to be a Cleveland County Sheriff's Office deputy, asking her to call immediately. She did and the woman on the other end answered, "Sheriff's office," before transferring her to the man claiming to be the deputy.
"I could definitely hear police scanners and the beeping," Stow said. "At one point it’s like he was talking to another police officer."
He told her she missed jury duty, and that if she didn't pay a $500 fine immediately, they were going to issue a warrant for her arrest. Not knowing what the typical process is for missing jury duty, Stow said she didn't know what to think and panicked.
"It was very real," she said. "He made me believe that I was going to go to jail if I didn’t pay these fines or go up to the jail at that time."
She told him she could only pay half, and he told her to go get cash, insisting on staying on the phone and keeping tabs on her location, playing on her fear.
"What if I got pulled over? Is there a warrant out for my arrest? He said, 'No, you’re fine. That’s why you’ll stay on the phone with me, and if you get pulled over I’ll talk to the police officer," Stow said, "and so I stayed on the phone with him."
After she got the cash, she said he changed her mind and told her she needed to get a Money Pak card instead. So she bought one, and when she got to the courthouse, he had her read the numbers over the phone to make sure it would work. After she did, he told her it was "invalidated" and said she would have to get another. As soon as he said that, she said the whole thing clicked as bogus.
"I said if this is a scam or something, this is so wrong," Stow said, "and he hung up on me."
After that, she reported the incident to police. But the money was gone, and the phone numbers used to communicate with her disconnected.
The Cleveland County District Court Clerk, Marilyn Williams, said these scams pick up in cycles, about every six months. She said one time a man was talked into sending $2,000 in gift cards to the courthouse, though she said she didn't know what the scammer's plan was to pick them up. She also said scammers have been known to use real deputies' names and to have people pay cash in person to fake deputies outside the jail.
Williams said the court clerk, which solely handles jury duty, will never give the names of jurors to anyone, including law enforcement. She also said people aren't arrested for missing jury duty.
"We don’t ever issue warrants for jurors ever," Williams said.
Stow said it's hard to talk about the incident, embarrassed she was fooled by the scammer. But she said if she can be convinced, she knows others are, too, and wants to get the word out so it doesn't happen to anyone else.
"It was so real, the words he used and the way he talked was," Stow said, "he knew exactly what he was doing."
Williams said scammers are becoming more aggressive all the time.
"It’s a criminal element. They’re very good at what they do."