We talk about bail amounts and the process of securing release as something that can be understood and navigated with just a little effort, and Fred Franks, as the oldest bail bonds company in Maryland, strives to provide clarity, consistency and an honest service. However, we know (and have seen) that there are bad actors in the industry who look to take advantage of people facing trouble with the law, and others who aren’t.
We’ll take a look here at some scams that we’ve seen in the bail bonds industry so you’ll be able to avoid them.
If you get a call and are told that a close friend or family member has been arrested, and the person calling you is a bail bondsman, chances are you are the target of a scam. While there are circumstances in which we’ve been asked, on behalf of an arrestee, to make contact with someone to let them know what’s happened, the only purpose of this call is to send this message where there are no other means of doing so.
The biggest sign that you are being scammed is that the bail bondsman calling will look to make arrangements with you for posting bail through the creation of a bond, before you have any independent or direct evidence that what they are telling you is true. If you are told that someone you know has been arrested, the best thing you can do is verify that it happened (i.e. call them first, and then start calling local police or your state inmate locator if they don’t answer) and start collecting information. Only when this has been established, and you know for yourself that there is a bail set for their release, should you be looking for a bail bondsman to help them secure release.
This is a situation in which you are told, usually by someone that you don’t know, that an error has been made somewhere in the system with dire consequences if not resolved immediately. The sense of urgency is a tactic used to keep the target off balance as thoughts of a return to jail or loss of already posted funds are made out to be real risks.
Errors happen, but rarely (if ever) are such consequences imposed without some level of process and verification being followed. While you are meant to feel fear for your friend or loved one, or concern about funds already paid, such situations deserve careful verification and patience. Should the person calling you raise the urgency too much, this is a clear tell that they want you to act without thinking (since they know that taking some time will expose their scam).
Soliciting at the Jail
Bail bond agents who look for clients at jail locations are more than likely in violation of the law or regulations that strictly apply to the bail bonds industry. For bail bondsman, this is obviously a logical targeting method – where else are you more likely to find people that need help to be released than from the place they are looking to be released from?
However, there have been so many cases of pressure being put on detainees and their families in this very stressful and uncomfortable setting that state regulations were put in place to allow families to deal with the detention process without being bothered by pesky bail bonds solicitors.
Lack of Contract
Never deal with anyone, especially in a situation in which the stakes are so high, who doesn’t want to use the appropriate documentation. Contracts protect both sides of a transaction, and lay out the conditions that must be met for delivery of service and payment. A bail bond is a very substantial contract with serious consequences for failing to comply with its requirements, and moving forward without the protection and clarity of this documentation is very dangerous.
And of course, you should always carefully read and review the contract before signing it.
Payments over the Phone
While this is becoming less of an issue as technology and fraud detection provides new forms of protection against transaction fraud, we believe that making a payment on a bail bond is best done in person, and at the same time as the contract is being signed.
You may have the opportunity to arrange for a phone payment following the establishment (in person) of a contract, but you should have a preference for in-person transactions, and with a company that you have selected (i.e. not one that calls you and requests money).
Threats and Bad Behavior
Bail bondsmen are used to dealing with people who display criminal behavior, and sometimes need to use appropriate force or other coercion to ensure that their clients show up for their required court dates (see fugitive recovery agents for the freedom that they have to detain bonded clients).
However, this should not extend to threats or undue force or physical intimidation, especially when it involves the family or friends of the defendant. Knowledge of such behaviors should be a warning sign for a bail bonds company.
As Maryland’s oldest and most trusted bail bonds company, Fred Franks is the safe choice for a reliable bail bonds experience with a priority given to customer service and honesty.