Beware Fraud in the Bail Bond Industry
When someone is arrested and taken into police custody, it creates an incredibly stressful time for their family for a lot of reasons. Depending on the nature of the crime, it could be embarrassing. If the arrestee has children that need to be taken care of, a mortgage or rent, or an auto payment, the family can take these obligations on themselves and end up experiencing significant hardship because of it.
Whenever someone is in need, they’re left vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud in the bail bond industry. In cases where vulnerability stems from having a member of the family arrested and thrown in jail, one of those sources of fraud could come from unscrupulous bail bondsmen.
“Bail scams have been around for a while now, and despite the industry’s crackdown, it still happens from time-to-time,” says Ken Collis, Founder and CEO of TLK Fusion Marketing. Below are a few scams to watch out for if you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of having a friend or loved one in jail.
Prices are Too Good to be True
When a bondsman offers you a good price on a bail bond, it may seem like they’re trying to you a favor, but they aren’t. “The thing about the bail industry is that the cost of a bail bond isn’t regulated by supply and demand the way the cost of other things are,” says Ken Collis.
Collis’s company, TLK Fusion Marketing, would like people to know that the cost of a bail bond is regulated by the state and should cost no more than 10% of the total bail amount. Collis continues, “In some cases, the cost of a bail bond can go as low as 8% if the person who was arrested is a veteran or active military member, has obtained legal counsel, or in a few other instances. Other than those very specific instances, any time a bail bondsman offers a bail amount of less than 10%, they could be committing some form of fraud.
Bail amounts vary from crime-to-crime, but the cost of a bail bond should always be 10% of the total bail amount. So, if a person’s bail is set at $25,000, it should cost no more than $2,500 to bail them out. There are some bail bondsmen who will charge less than 10%, usually about 5%, and say that they’re willing to take $1,250 cash to bail someone out of jail.
“On the surface, this sounds like a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, the other $1,250 is financed by the bail bondsman – with interest,” says Ken Collis. When this happens, the hapless victim ends up paying $1,250 cash or credit as the deposit, plus an additional $1,250 that they have financed over a period of time, with interest, and ultimately paying more than the law would otherwise require.
Solicitation at the Station
It is illegal for a bail bondsman, under any circumstances, to solicit business at the police station. The law provides strict rules regarding when, how, and where a bail bondsman can advertise their business and the jail or lobby of the police station is expressly forbidden. If you think about it, the rule makes sense. Police stations are busy places, and the last thing they need is a bunch of local bail bondsmen shouting each other down because every person who comes through is a potential client.
Aside from crowding the police station, soliciting bail bond services in the jails leads to kickbacks to prisoners who refer the bondsman to others inside the jail, and even to attempts to bribe police. Most bail bondsmen are professionals who take a serious business seriously, but like every other profession, an unscrupulous few are out to make a quick buck any way that they can.
Direct Solicitation of Business
Consultants at TLK Fusion Marketing like to point out that not only is soliciting business at the jail illegal for bail bondsmen, but the direct solicitation of business in general is illegal. In the age of the Internet, a person’s booking information is available online not long after they’re arrested.
It’s easy for a bail bondsman to use a recently arrested person’s booking information to locate their family and call them directly soliciting their service as a bail bondsman. This practice might seem like good salesmanship but it is very much illegal. The rules of the industry require that a person looking to bail someone out of jail must contact the bail bondsman – not the other way around. If a bondsman ever calls inquiring about someone who has recently been arrested, you probably shouldn’t trust them. Ask them where they got their information and let the police know.
While it’s illegal for bail bondsmen to solicit their services at the jail and via cold-calls, advertising a bail bond business isn’t illegal, and you shouldn’t worry about a bondsman if you see their ads on a bench, a newspaper, or online. It’s fine to advertise that a bail agency exists, as a matter of fact it’s crucial to business, it’s only illegal if the bail bondsman is the first one to make direct contact with a potential client.
Most bail bond agents are professional, courteous, and there to help you get your loved ones out of jail. Those who would try to cut corners and abuse the system are few and far between, but they do exist. Knowing what to look for should help you keep yourself out of harm’s way.