The state’s high court is warning of “several widespread email and phone scams” where tricksters tell targets they have to pay money to avoid going to a Florida court to face charges.
The scams appear to target individuals with limited English-language skills, the elderly, health-care workers, or relatives of people who recently died, according to a press release issued by the Florida Supreme Court this morning.
Courts don’t work that way, SCOFLA spokesman Craig Waters said in the press release.
“People can avoid being victimized with a little foreknowledge. Most importantly, state courts in Florida do not make initial contact by email or by phone to tell people to appear before a judge or to pay money. You normally would be told in person or by regular-delivery mail,” Waters wrote.
The alert also details the different kinds of scams reported thus far:
- One scam sends emails saying that the recipient – often a health-care worker – is a defendant in a “Court of Appeals” case about a “Health Care Service Violation.” In reality, no Florida state court would ever make its initial contact with any “defendant” by email.
- A separate telephone scam targets Spanish speakers in Southeast Florida, especially Dade and Broward Counties. It often displays a fake caller ID phone number that spoofs the actual phone number of the Florida Supreme Court clerk’s office. Usually the caller tells the intended victims they must pay money or make a wire transfer to avoid being charged with offenses like kidnapping, child pornography or human trafficking.
- A third scam targets the family or heirs of people who recently died, claiming that someone else owes money to the deceased person’s estate. Usually the scam occurs by asking the family or heirs to pay an upfront “tax” or some other fee in order to receive payment. At least one email scam of this type included the bogus signature of a Florida judge.
- A fourth scam widespread throughout the United States can come by phone or email and relates to jury duty. Usually it falsely claims that the person must pay a fine for missing jury duty or must disclose sensitive personal information like a Social Security number that can be used in identity theft.
The court cautions anyone receiving similar emails or phone calls not to give out their personal information, and to contact law enforcement or the attorney general’s office.
Waters also advised individuals who want to check out such suspicious email or phone calls to forward them to the Florida Supreme Court at firstname.lastname@example.org.