The Phony Bondsman and Other Bail Scams

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The Phony Bondsman and Other Bail Scams

Bail bond agents work hard to ensure everyone who has a right to be free on bail while awaiting trial can be free. They’re an integral part of the criminal justice system and have been for centuries. While the bail system in America is not perfect few of its imperfections originate with the bondsman who does a difficult job with steadfast determination and little by way of appreciation. But, as if their job wasn’t already hard enough, the reputation of the bail bond agent can be brought into undeserved disrepute by scammers posing as bail agents. Below we’ll look at this and other scams related to the bail system.

The Phony Bondsman Scam

The ingenuity and technical prowess of scammers should never be underestimated. Just because they’re criminals doesn’t mean they’re dumb.

In this scam the scammers find a way to install spyware on a jail computer system. This is typically done by sending numerous junk mails to the jail until someone there opens one of those mails. Once they do the spyware is downloaded and installed and it sends the scammer detailed information on who was recently arrested and released on bond.

The scammer then calls the indemnitor (the person who signed for the bond) of one of those recently released individuals and says there is a problem and more bail needs to be paid immediately or a warrant will be issued for the arrest of the defendant. The indemnitor, eager to see that their loved one remains free, sends the money where they’re told to and later learns they have been scammed.

The Grandchild Scam

In this case scammers take advantage of the fact that people’s memories deteriorate with age and that they often lose track of family members. The scammers call elderly people and tell them they are their grandchild. They have been arrested and are in need of bail but mom and dad can’t be reached for some reason. But the scammers don’t just do cold calls and hope for the best. They may do several days of work first scouring Facebook and/or other social media sites looking for family situations that seem ripe for exploitation.

The scammers scoop up relevant information and then call the grandparents posing as their grandchild who has been wrongly accused of some crime and is in a tight spot. The grandparents naturally want to help their grandchild and forward the money where they’re told to forward it. Chances are if the grandparents don’t realize it’s a scam within the first couple of minutes they’ll wind up being fleeced for a substantial amount of money.

The Police Officer Scam

Some scammers have been known to call people and say they are members of the local sheriff’s department. They tell the prospective victim they have an arrest warrant for their child, spouse or other relative. They then give them a choice: either pay bail for the loved one or turn the loved one over to the Jefferson County, Arapahoe County or Denver County sheriff’s office immediately.

The victim, feeling pressure to do something now, agrees to pay the bail using their credit or debit card or, in some cases, by providing their bank account information. Once the money has been stolen from the victim the phony sheriff’s deputy declares the warrant has been voided but that the loved one will still have to appear in court on X date to face the charges against them.

How You Can Protect Yourself?

There are several ways a person can protect themselves against these kinds of scams including:

  • Be skeptical - While it’s not in some people’s nature to be skeptical it will serve you well to approach anything that seems to come out of the blue with a healthy dose of disbelief. If someone calls you posing as a long lost relative, bail agent or a member of law enforcement ask them for their number and say you’ll call them back. This is usually enough to deter a scammer.
  • Never give out personal information - Keep in mind that a member of law enforcement will not ask for your credit card information to post bail over the phone. So anyone who does is trying to scam you. Also, never give out bank account information, your own or someone else’s social security number, your address or any other personal information that could potentially come back to haunt you. Ever.
  • Never agree to an anonymous meeting - If someone claiming to be a bail bonds agent or law enforcement officer asks to meet you at the mall or a restaurant to discuss an urgent matter all kinds of red flags should go up. A licensed bail agent can only conduct business from their office. And a police officer won’t be calling out of the blue to set up discreet meetings to discuss bail.

The Bottom Line

Remember, if someone you don’t know calls claiming to be a long lost relative, member of law enforcement or a bail bonding agent and begins by asking for money your first thought should be “scam.” Ask them to provide a number where you can call them back. Also ask for their name, the name of their bail company or the location of the jail where they are allegedly being held or where they work. If they try to weasel out of providing those details, you know they are scamming you. And if they do provide information, verify it all before proceeding.

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