ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – A Wisconsin resident with a court case in Kane County logged in to Zoom for his court appearance and was approached by someone in the chat feature claiming that he was a lawyer who could help resolve the case.
The Wisconsin resident believed the person on the chat was a lawyer and called the number provided but declined to send $500 as requested, dodging a scam, Kane County Undersheriff Amy Johnson said.
“In Kane County, we have not had anybody affected thus far – just the one from Wisconsin,” Johnson said regarding the loss of money. “There’s one to two out of DuPage County.”
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Offices warned about the scam in a news release, noting that they have received multiple reports about the scam.
According to the release, no one working as a lawyer or court employee would do this.
The scammer will ask people to make a telephone call. While on the call, the scammer asks for photocopies of the victim’s driver’s license, bank statements and pay stubs, according to the release.
This person then informs the caller that a payment through banking applications such as Cash App, Zelle, Apple Pay and/or gift cards will help resolve their case.
“It keeps evolving. That’s why we did the public service announcement,” Johnson said. “You should not be solicited, and if you are, please report this individual.”
Anyone with information should call the Kane County Sheriff’s Office at 630-444-1103.
The scam’s timeframe goes back about three weeks in Kane County, Johnson said.
“They can make up a name. There’s no two-factor identification. They can say who they are when they are not,” Johnson said. “They don’t even need to put down a name, they can put down an emoji. … They can say they are attorney Bill Smith. And the next time, Bill Doe. And then Tim Doe. It’s not a call, it’s only a chat feature.”
Only two Kane courtrooms have Zoom, one at the civil courthouse in Geneva and one at the criminal courthouse in St. Charles Township, she said.
The chat feature is enabled because it’s an open courtroom and anyone can log in.
A bailiff in charge of the civil courtroom in Geneva has taken steps to check off who is in court according to the docket, Johnson said. And once everybody is accounted for, the bailiff shuts off the chat feature.
People still can Zoom the court call, just as they can walk into a public courtroom, but they cannot engage using the chat feature – at least, not temporarily while the situation is being investigated.
“If an attorney is meeting with another client and just needs 10 minutes [for Zoom], they don’t have to come all the way to Kane County,” Johnson said. “That is the reason for the chat feature.”
Johnson said Kane County is working with DuPage County, sharing information with detectives as they look for the scammers.
The news release included tips to protect people from courtroom Zoom scammers:
• Always verify who you are talking to. Scammers often pretend to represent an organization you know.
• Scammers instruct you to pay in a specific way.
• Scammers rush and demand immediate payment.
A message left for a DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman was not immediately returned.