What would you prefer, a five-hundred dollar fine or a thirty-day prison sentence?
These are the options that residents of St. Louis County are given after they are told they failed to appear for their mandatory jury duty.
But there's a small catch. The call is not from court officials, but rather a site outside of Missouri called humorhotlines.com -- a fact which an automated call will tell you. That is, if you make it to the end of the message without panicking about your imminent incarceration.
People are being duped, county officials say.
The prank line that people are told to call is 704-319-7242. When they call that line, they hear a male voice delivering an "urgent message from the 'National Justice Center.'"
"Our records indicate you failed to appear for jury duty last Monday morning at 9 a.m," the voice says. "Unfortunately, ignoring these notifications and failing to appear in court for jury duty is a Class 3 misdemeanor. To make arrangements to pay the 500-dollar fine for failure to appear for jury duty, press two. To make arrangements to begin serving a 30-day prison sentence for failure to appear for jury duty, press three."
It sounds pretty darn official until the next sentence: "You have one final option and we strongly suggest you choose this one."
What's this third option? "Pay it forward" and prank a friend with the number. Gotcha!
Some people apparently aren't making it to that point in the call or are still tricked or scared after hearing the ending.
Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for St. Louis County, tells Daily RFT that the courts have recently gotten a total of three phone calls at their jury room from panicked people who received this message.
"They were not happy," he says. "They were not summoned for jury duty and they didn't understand why they were being told they had to pay fines."
Continue for more details on the county response and a video on the prank.
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