FRANKFORT -- The jury duty scam, where people are told they failed to show up for jury duty and are threatened with arrest unless they buy gift cards, has recently cropped up in a new form.

Following reports from Kentucky teachers in Franklin, Jefferson and Whitley counties, Attorney General Andy Beshear issued a scam alert to warn of the new variation of the old scam targeting Kentucky school systems and teachers.

Beshear said this involves a "Deputy Hart" calling schools asking to speak with a specific teacher who allegedly has an outstanding warrant or missed jury duty. School officials have been threatened with "obstruction charges" if the scammer is not given information or allowed to speak with the teacher.

Once on the phone with the victim, the scammer requests payment via gift cards to resolve the legal matter and avoid arrest.

"While this scam is similar to the widespread jury duty scam, now there is a troubling new twist that indicates scammers are targeting teachers through social media," Beshear said. "It is despicable that at a time when our teachers are focused on returning to their classrooms to educate children they are being targeted by scammers. I want to make sure every teacher is aware of this scam and takes steps to protect their information online."

Reports indicate that the scam call is spoofed appearing to be from a local area code and one victim said the scammer pressured her to purchase $2,500 in gift cards, but ultimately she did not fall victim.

Beshear's office has been in contact with each school district, local officials and the Department of Education and is asking teachers and school district employees to follow these tips to avoid falling victim to the scam.

• Change your privacy settings. Be aware that con artists may use the information that is publicly available on social media against you. Consider adjusting your privacy settings to protect key information about you and your family.

• Verify the call. A scammer may call from a spoofed phone number and pretend to have information like badge numbers, names of actual law enforcement officials, courthouse addresses and phone numbers. Never trust the caller and always verify information independently before making a payment.

• Never pay over the phone using gift cards or reloadable credit cards. Scammers typically use gift cards and reloadable cards as their preferred method of payment because they are almost impossible to track and recover. Know that legitimate local authorities will not ask you to pay using these methods.

While scammers are often difficult to track down, the Attorney General's office has had some successes. In October 2017, a Florida man pretended to be with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and threatened a local resident with a subpoena for alleged credit card fraud. That person deposited nearly $5,000 into the scammer's bank account.

He was caught, and eventually pleaded guilty at Jefferson Circuit Court to two counts of theft by deception. He was ordered to repay that victim and another almost $10,000.

To report a scam, contact the Office of the Attorney General at 888-432-9257.

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