8 Tips to Avoid Bail Bond Scams
Posting bail for yourself or a loved one can be a highly emotional time. Unfortunately some people prey on this vulnerable state and conduct bail bond scams that target defendants and their families. It is best to take a step back and make sure you work with a credible bail bond agent, even when you may feel the need to act immediately.
Don’t fall victim to these bail scams. Only trust your information and money with a reputable bail bond agent who conducts business in a fair and lawful way. In this article we discuss eight tips to avoid bail bond scams and how to report suspicious activity.
Here are some red flags:
1. Illegal Solicitation
By law, bail bond agents are not allowed to solicit services with cold calls to the detainee or their family and friends. If you get a call from someone claiming to be a bail agent and the defendant has not requested they call you, do not give them any information! It is also prohibited to advertise bail bond services inside of courtrooms, jails, or police stations.
2. False Information
Getting a call about a “fake error” is another bail bond scam where someone rings your phone when you are not expecting a call. With this scam, the caller claims there has been an error with your loved one’s bail bond. They may say the bond was underpaid, and now the defendant will go back to jail unless you give the caller money right away.
Scammers are able to review public records and get contact information for the clients of valid bail bond companies. The caller may be aware of the fact that your loved one recently posted bail, but this kind of information can be found by anyone online.
In this situation the scammer wants you to panic and react quickly rather than taking time to consider the facts. If you get a call demanding immediate payment, remain as calm as possible, hang up, and dial the number to a trustworthy contact to get the facts.
3. Intimidating Behavior
Unfortunately, some bail agents use their position to abuse power. Knowing your rights as a defendant is important. As an example, bail bond companies do not have the right to detain you if there’s no warrant for your arrest. Even if you owe them money, they need to sue as they have no right to detain someone who does not have an arrest warrant.
If a bail bond agent yells at, intimidates, threatens, or tries to coerce you or the defendant, then you have reason to be alarmed. It’s a good idea to do some research about the company beforehand. Online reviews can be revealing or reassuring. Ultimately, listen to your gut if you get a bad feeling about working with someone.
4. Steep Discounts
Legitimate bail bond companies charge fixed fees for their services, which are set by state law. If someone is offering you a bail bond service with a huge discount, see this as a red flag. It is likely that anyone offering bail bonds at a “discount” is fraudulent.
5. Interest Rates
If someone claiming to be a bondsman requires an interest rate on top of the standard fee, it is likely they are running a bail bond scam. Bail bonds can be affordable, but it is important to understand your local bail bond cost laws. Each state in the USA has specific standards for bail bond costs that are not to be exceeded (or reduced).
6. No Proof of Bail Bond Agent License
Seeing proof of a bail agent’s license may seem like an obvious thing to do, but this step may be overlooked in a time of panic. Any bail bond agent worth partnering with will be happy to provide you with evidence of their credentials.
It should not be difficult to obtain their bail license number. For example, at Frank Calabretta’s Bail House we post our insurance bail license number (#1570093) in the footer of our website.
7. Fake or Spoofing Websites
Some scammers go so far as to create fake jail or government websites to illegally gain business. Always double check the URL if you are inputting any information. At the least, the URL should be secured, indicated with “https” at the beginning instead of “http” although a secure website does not automatically mean it is legitimate. Government websites will end in “.gov” and any website claiming to be government-run that does not have this domain suffix should be dismissed.
8. Lack of Paperwork or Contract
A legitimate bail bond will need to be secured with a contract and signatures. Do not trust anyone claiming to be a bail agent who says you can pay over the phone while not requiring a written contract.
At Frank Calabretta’s Bail House we offer the ability for our clients to pay over the phone with a credit card. However, we require a DocuSign bail agreement. We follow up with an electronic receipt which includes court date information, as well as a link to the courthouse.
It is important that electronically signed paperwork is done in a secure, protected manner such as using the DocuSign service. If you prefer to sign paperwork in person you are welcome to visit our office which is conveniently located across from the Placer County Jail.
Reporting Suspicious Activity
If you notice any suspicious activity that indicates bail bond fraud, you can file a complaint with the California department of Insurance. You can send a message through the insurance.ca.gov website or call 1 (800) 927-4357 to speak with a knowledgeable representative.
Partner with a Trusted Bail Bond Agency
At Frank Calabretta’s Bail House our professional bail bondsmen are happy to walk you through the process of posting bail. We are available 24 hours a day to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Our experienced agents can help you or your loved one post bail fast no matter where they are located in the United States!
While this can seem like an intimidating situation, it’s important to work with a licensed bail bond agent that you trust. Give us a call at (530) 823-8340 or send us a message through our website at any time with questions or to get started.