Unfortunately there are several tricks, traps, and scams that less than honest bondsmen or those posing as bondsmen employ to take advantage of people trying to get their loved ones out of jail. Here are some common bail bonds scams, and tips for avoiding them.
Soliciting Inside the Jail
Bail agents are not allowed to solicit business directly from a jail. However, some individuals ignore this law and attempt to solicit business anyway. This agent risks losing their license, facing jail time, and felony charges.
The Unsolicited Phone Call
Bail agents who cold call potential clients are acting illegally. Legally, a client must contact a bail agent. By obtaining information online, the agent uses the Internet to track down an arrestee’s family members. If an agent calls you and refuses to inform you how they obtained the information about your family member’s arrest, be suspicious. This person may not even be an actual bail bondsman. A legitimate bail bondsman will never solicit over the phone.
The Bogus Warrant Phone Call
No law enforcement agency will ever call to inform you of an impending arrest, nor do they solicit money over the phone. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy informing you that a warrant will be issued for your arrest unless you provide them with a credit card number to purchase a bail bond, hang up and call the agency where the person claimed to be from for verification.
The Grandparent Scam
Con artists pose as grandchildren in distress, calling from somewhere far away and often noisy, claiming to be in trouble. There are several variations on this scam but they all tend to request that the grandparents wire several thousand dollars or to provide bank account routing numbers. If you receive a call from your “grandchild” claiming to be at a far away location, hang up and call another family member to confirm your grandchild’s whereabouts or try calling your grandchild at their regular telephone number.
Bargain Bail Bonds
What sounds like a great deal, can turn out to be a “bait and switch” scam, or worse. Most states legally require a 10% bail bond premium. If you are being offered a lower percentage, the company may be advertising falsely or illegally. The bail agent may take the lower percentage as a down payment and then finance the balance, often with interest. While this practice isn’t illegal, it is misleading. It is, however, illegal to charge less than the rate established by law. If you encounter a company offering you this type of discounted rate you are likely not working with an honest business. While everyone loves a bargain, ask yourself why this offer appears too good to be true.
Tips for Avoiding Scams
You may feel a sense of urgency, but don’t make a mistake in your rush. The best way to avoid bail bonds scams is to do your homework. A legitimate and reputable bail bond agency will usually have a website and always have a business license. Complete (and understand) the paperwork from the bond agent before paying or wiring any money. Wiring money is like sending cash, there is no way to trace the money, reverse the transaction, or recover payment. Never give personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you on the phone.