How to spot a potential court document, process server scam

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – 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 will call you, but they won’t threaten you over the phone.

A process server is always paid by the party hiring them to deliver legal documents.

Whether it’s a divorce, child support, or debt collection case, the party being served will never pay the server directly. Posing as a process server is almost the perfect cover for a scam artist.

After all, process servers do call individuals and go to their homes with legal documents, but their tactics will not involve bullying or scaring you.

Naomi and Warren Prator are a law-abiding couple, never had any legal issues filed against them. Naomi was surprised when she received a call in January from someone claiming he’s a process server.

“This call is for Naomi Williams. We were scheduled to deliver your legal documents, not sure if you were aware of the paper work, it was meant for you and you had two hours to call.”

Voicemail from alleged process server

Two hours to call? That’s one red flag.

Now comes the threat of legal action.

“To avoid any further legal actions…”

Voicemail from alleged process server

“Well it scared me at first. I had my wallet stolen a couple of years ago. I didn’t know if someone had my information.”

Naomi Prator

Messages were also left on their landline phone. Naomi’s husband, Warren, believed the calls were odd.

“It kind of startled me too. I thought… what is going on? Who is suing her for what?”

Warren Prator

Steven Williams is a process server.

The former police officer, who runs his own agency, delivers papers locally. He says if you get a phone call from a process server on strange, non-local or blocked numbers, it’s probably a scam.

“The process server initiates the lawsuit by notifying the party that’s been sued that there is an action brought against them.”

Steven Williams – Premier Protection

A process server is not going to threaten you with legal action.

“So, if it is a legitimate process server, they should have a copy of the documents in front of them. They should be able to read all the information off the header. The plaintiff’s name, the docket number, what court it is out of…”

Steven Williams

WATE 6 On Your Side asked Mrs. Prator to call the so-called process server back. The man on the phone wouldn’t give her any information or why she faced potential legal action.

She spoke bluntly.

Naomi – “I think this is a scam.”

Alleged process server – “Okay, I don’t need to prove to you over the phone that this isn’t a scam. So they’ll be heading out there in a little bit, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.”

After that last remark, the alleged process server hung up.

Steven Williams says if you suspect the call you’re getting is a scam, contact your local police or sheriff’s department.

“If you give them a docket number, they should know who they are talking to. It convinces me that it’s a scam.”

Naomi Prator

Process servers fill an important role in legal proceedings but don’t be fooled by imposters.

Remember, if the server calls constantly and intimidates you, it’s a scam.

If the server can’t give you basic information about the case, like who is filing the suit, it’s a scam.

If they’re rude or pushy, it’s a scam.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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