Scammers are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly clever as technology advances. Sometimes you can inadvertently provide access to your bank account by clicking on a link that was texted to you. We are always on high alert these days. But there are those among us who are more vulnerable. Criminals are figuring out new ways to target the elderly with disturbing schemes that take advantage of their love of family. One new con caught my attention because it involves my industry – – bail bonds. Scammers
How the Scam Works:
Imagine what it would be like to receive a call from an out-of-state bail agent, telling you that your grandchild is in jail and is in need of money to get out. He claims that your grandchild did something stupid, landed himself in a bad situation and you are the first person he thought of to get help. How could you possibly let him down? Moreover, this ‘bail agent’ intentionally rushes you, attempting to frazzle you. Scammers
Don’t let them get away with it.
This is the exact scenario that happened to a woman in Kansas. She was contacted by someone who she thought was a legitimate bail bondsman based in Florida. The predator called the unsuspecting grandmother and informed her that her grandson was at a wedding in Florida, got into some trouble, and was arrested. He claimed that he needed bail money immediately in order for her grandson to be released from jail. Desperate to help him, she provided her credit card information and is now out $5,000. As it turned out, of course, her grandson was fine, had not been arrested, and didn’t need bail money.
Tips to Avoid This Scam:
The first bit of advice I can offer is this – – don’t let a caller like this bully and rush you. They might insist that they need the bail money within five minutes or else your loved one will have to await his trial that will be months away. Ask them in what jail your loved one is supposedly being held. It is important to note that a bona fide bail agent will readily offer the name of the jail. It would also be a wise tactic to mention to the ‘bail agent’ that you have a local bondsman with whom you are comfortable working. Usually, at this point, a fake bondsman will hang up, knowing that he has been outsmarted.
A real bail bondsman, and I personally know many, are fine, hard-working Americans who help people on what might be the worst days of their lives. This latest scam reinforces the negative stereotype of bail bond agents that have been painted by Hollywood in movies and television shows. They are frequently portrayed as seedy, unscrupulous characters who you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. That image is simply not the reality of the industry. Scammers
The second bit of advice is that before you even call the jail to confirm your relative is being detained, try reaching your loved one in question. If they pick up and are obviously fine, then the caller was a scam artist. However, if you can’t reach your loved one, call the jail to directly verify that he is being held. Scammers
Lastly, and this is true for any unverified caller who demands money from you, never provide your credit card information over the phone if you receive such calls. It is understandable how easy it is to be swept up at the moment when you believe that your loved one is in danger, but please take a moment to breathe. Don’t allow these awful con artists to get the best of you. Scammers
David Stuckman is the Executive Vice President of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States.