NOTE: If you think you are being scammed, CALL THE POLICE immediately! There’s not a lot we can do other than help you know if you may be the target of a scam.
Process Servers Fill an Important Role in Legal Proceedings, Don’t Be Fooled by Posers
Scams take many forms, but all have the same goal: taking money from the unsuspecting. Their tactics sometimes involve masquerading as lawful agents, bullying people into handing over money for fear of legal repercussions. Process servers, unfortunately, are now a getting a bad rap thanks to scammers. Posing as a process server is almost the perfect cover for a scam artist. After all, process servers call individuals and go their home with legal documents. Most people are unfamiliar with the legal process and don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to do when they’re served with papers. This presents a golden opportunity for scammers to take advantage of you.
If you are contacted by somebody claiming to be a process server, here are three huge flags indicating you are about to be taken in a scam.
1) The Server Demands You Pay Him
A process server is always paid by the party hiring him to deliver the documents. Whether it’s a divorce, child support or debt collection case, the party being served will never pay the server directly.
If a process server ever asks you to give them money, it’s a scam.
Sometimes, fake process servers may even claim they can get the case dismissed if you pay them or that there will be major repercussions if you do not. This is patently false. All a process server is paid to do is deliver legal documents.
A process server cannot do anything to make a court case “go away.” Anybody posing as a process server who asks you for money is clearly not a server and is trying to scam you. If you find yourself in a situation where a fake server is asking for money, call the Police.
2) The Server Calls Constantly and Intimidates You
Real process servers will call people they are trying to serve. If a server can get in touch with you, they will try to arrange a time to deliver the documents. A server may make a few attempts to call you and might leave a message on your answering machine. In Wisconsin, there are no statutes stating when a server can or cannot call you, but legitimate process servers will not call constantly or attempt to intimidate you.
If a server calls you at all hours of the day from a non-local number trying to scare you, it’s a scammer.
A server may explain that there could be bad consequences to not receiving the papers. This is merely a statement of fact and not an attempt to frighten you. Fake servers will use high-pressure scare tactics to bully you into giving out personal information they may use for nefarious purposes.
Servers do make attempts at many times of day. Learn more in our article about when process servers can attempt to serve you.
Process servers handle jobs from all over the country and may be serving documents from another state. At the same time, the person actually serving the papers lives within driving distance of your home. If you start getting phone calls from process servers on strange, non-local or blocked numbers, it’s probably a scam.
3) The Server Cannot Give You Any Information about the Case
This one may be a tricky flag to understand, but it is very important. Process servers normally deliver documents related to actual court cases. Court cases have captions listing the parties involved (i.e. you and another person or business), a State and County where the case is filed and usually a case number. Process servers can have dozens of papers at any time and may not know the specifics of your papers off hand, but we can always check our stack and let you know.
If a process server tells you they have sealed court documents or cannot tell you any of the case information, it’s probably a scam.
A real process server will never deliver sealed documents they know nothing about. We are required to inform you of the nature of the documents and will know at least what kind of papers we’re serving and the case they belong to. We can easily tell you the State and County where the case is filed, the case number if it has one and who are the named parties. If you’re still unsure whether you’re dealing with a real server or a scam artist, you can always call the clerk of court in the county where the case is filed and check to see if the case actually exists. Many states have special websites where you can enter the case information and see if a case has been filed.
Bonus: They Can’t Pronounce the Name of Your City
Like we said above, a real process server delivering papers to you is a local. If the person posing a server can’t pronounce the names of local cities with odd names, like Oconomowoc, Waukesha or Kaukauna, they’re probably not a process server.
If You’re Getting Scammed, Notify the Authorities
If you ever find yourself in a situation where one of these flags is raised, notify the local authorities. These scammers can take thousands from unsuspecting individuals and will continue to steal from others until they are brought to justice. You can help your neighbors and even legitimate process servers by reporting process serving scams as soon as you are aware of them.
If you’re getting served by Southeast Wisconsin Process, you can always call us and our friendly staff will be able to tell you the case venue, number and caption. We can often even arrange to have the documents waiting in our office in case you’d rather come here and pick them up than get served at your home.
True Story of a Scammer Targeting a Server!
Process servers are real people and, yes, scammers try to get us, too. One of our process servers was actually targeted by a scammer pretending to be a process server. At first, he just laughed it off and ignored them. But one day the scammer called when the server was standing next to Southeast Wisconsin Process’s Chief Operations Officer (COO). Big mistake. The server handed the phone to our COO and the phone call that ensued was enlightening.
The scammer raised pretty much every single flag.
She demanded the server’s social security number.
She was very rude and very pushy.
She claimed to have “sealed court documents.”
She couldn’t pronounce the city we are located in: Waukesha.
Not that we have a thing against accents, but you could tell she was not a local.
The entire time, our COO was patiently and calmly talking to the scammer, refusing to give out information and instead asking lots and lots of questions. What kind of documents do you have? Where were they filed? If you’re trying to serve me, how don’t you know anything about me? By never answering the scammer’s questions and only asking questions, our COO was able to frustrate the scammer into giving up. Not only did she hang up on us, she gave up trying to scam the server altogether.
Remember, there was no way our COO was going to be tricked by the scammer. Rather than try to repeat this exercise yourself, keep the following things in mind:
Stay calm and be polite. It’s just a phone call and you can hang up at any time.
Never answer the scammer’s questions.
Report the incident to the Police or local law enforcement.
Remember the time a scammer called the wrong person. Smile and remind yourself that sometimes the good guys win, too.
Who Are We and How Do We Know About Process Server Scams?
Southeast Wisconsin Process is a process serving company based near Milwaukee, WI. We’ve been serving the community for decades, growing from providing service in just the Milwaukee area to all of Wisconsin and now coordinating with a nationwide network of process servers. We serve all kinds of legal documents, mostly debt collection, but also foreclosures, child support papers, divorces, subpoenas and many other cases.
Thousands and thousands of papers pass through our office each year.
Interacting with clients and the people we serve has proven to us that most people do not understand what process serving is. Reading shock headlines and sad stories about people who have been taken shows that scammers are taking advantage of this ignorance. Educating the public about our profession is a service we provide to the community at large and we’re more than happy to help.