While the jury duty scam reported in April is still going strong, some Broward County residents are now being targeted by a new type of scam, Howard Forman, Broward County Clerk of the Court told Examiner on Wednesday.
In this particular scam, alleged victims are receiving a fake notice or summons to appear for a pretrial conference in Small Claims Court at a courthouse in Deerfield Beach.
The official “Summons/Notice to Appear for Pretrial Conference,” warns potential victims that they “are required to appear in person or by attorney at the Broward County Courthouse” on West Hillsboro Boulevard or be subject to a “default judgment.”
A hand-written warning on the summons, advises potential victims that they can avoid a court appearance if “you can mail payment use free envelope or call with your credit card 212-8761517.” Further instructions offer the notation, “send what you can every week, 2 wks or month to avoid court.”
The fake summons to appear is signed with an illegible signature that does not match any sitting judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit.
“From what I’ve seen and heard about this scheme, it’s downright fraud,” Bina Fink Kohl, of Weston - herself an identity theft victim - told Examiner. “Persons receiving any notice to appear from an unknown creditor should immediately determine it's legitimacy."
A simple Google search of the telephone number provided on the summons indicates that it belongs to “Bobell Company,” a privately held New York Furniture store. When questioned late Tuesday afternoon about the alleged scheme, company executive Mark Sacker stated that Bobell had customers in Florida that owed the company money.
“We have some customers in Florida that haven’t paid us,” Sacker told Examiner. “I don’t know anything about the forms you’re talking about, though.”
Online records available through the Broward County Clerk of Court indicate not a single legal matter in which the Bobell Company is a litigant seeking damages or money from any party.
Officials are not sure how many Broward County residents have been targeted by the scam or if any of them have have attempted to make a payment after receiving the phony summons.
“Two of the fake summons we have reviewed asked for a couple hundred dollars each,” Howard Forman, Broward County Clerk of Court told Examiner. “From what we can tell right now, this is a scam targeting local residents.”
Given this set of circumstances and fact pattern, it appears that Broward residents are being victimized by a new and potentially disturbing scam through use of the court system.
Broward County residents who have received a “Summons/Notice to Appear for Pretrial Conference” that appear fraudulent or fake or on a matter seeking an immediate payment in lieu of appearing in court are urged to contact Court Administration at 954-831-5848.
As a nationally recognized credit repair and ID theft expert, Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.