What's worse than getting picked for jury duty? How about getting a prank phone call threatening you with a $500 fine or 30 days in jail for missing a jury summons you never even received.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts on Thursday sent out an alert to citizens and officials who oversee county courts to advise them of the prank.
Peter Morin, a court administrator in Mercer County, said his office has been getting calls from people who haven't listened to the entire call, which includes a message near the end that says,
"Rather than a $500 fine or a 30-day prison sentence you may instead choose to pay it forward and simply pass this phone number onto your top 10 most gullible friends.''
"It's someone's idea of a joke,'' Morin told The Associated Press. "I don't think it's particularly funny.''
But the folks who run the online gag website www.humorhotlines.com apparently do.
The jury duty prank originates from the site, which also offers prank calls or text messages that can be sent to friends for "Drunk Dating Advice,'' a fake "Friend Request Hotline'' and, just in time for November, a "Presidential Polling Prank.''
The Associated Press sent an email to the website requesting comment and left telephone messages for RH Brands LLC, of Atlanta, which is listed as the site's copyright holder.
Zygmont Pines, the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania, issued a statewide alert asking court officials who hear of the call -- or unsuspecting citizens who receive it -- to not pass it on to their friends.
"This prank is causing confusion and anxiety and has resulted in disruptions and undue work for court employees, which translates to a waste of tax dollars,'' Pines said. "Please don't forward these messages if you receive one.''
Morin said court administrators are taking the matter seriously and that the state attorney general may be asked to investigate.
A spokesman for the attorney general was checking whether the office had received a request to investigate.
Morin said his county does not use phone calls or text messages to alert people to jury duty, which is difficult enough to get some people to take seriously absent such pranks.
"We try to impress upon them the importance of jury duty and something like this makes people even more reluctant,'' Morin said.
Copyright Associated Press