In February of this year, the New Orleans State Insurance Commissioner claimed that local bail bond agents had been regularly charging their clients a 13% premium on bonds issued, 1% higher than the 12% state-mandated limit which could result in refunds from the companies who have been overcharging for years to their clients.
In Fort Myers, Florida, a bail bond agent was arrested for embezzlement and larceny for failing to return $2,500 in bond premiums to a man who was arrested but never released because he was held on an immigration charge.
In May 2018, two women were arrested in North Carolina for passing themselves off as bail bond agents. The unlicensed women allegedly collected $8,000 to bail someone out of jail. The money was never recovered.
Also in North Carolina, a woman was arrested for running a fraudulent bail bond company…from her jail cell.
In Spokane, a bond agent lost his license and had to shut down his bond company and allegedly kept $84,000 in collateral owed to his clients.
Scammers and unscrupulous people know that when you’re in a desperate situation, like when you’ve been arrested, you won’t be alert to potential theft. You just want to get out of jail. They know you won’t bother to check credentials and ask questions. Anyone can set up an official-looking website and claim to be a legitimate bail bond agent so how do you know if they are?
Before you entrust anyone with money to get you or a loved one out of jail, it’s wise to do a little research. If you’re in jail, you may have to employ the help of a friend or family member but if you don’t do your due diligence, you may be out money and in jail.
Use the Internet. Look for reviews on Yelp or Google (not the bondman’s website, over which they have complete control). Also, look them up on the Better Business Bureau’s site. They may have reviews and the BBB rates them as well. The detailed information on the business should tell you how long they’ve been in business. Look for an agent with years of experience.
Check Their Licenses. Look up recent license revocations and suspensions which can be found at your state’s licensing division. For Florida, it can be found here.
Look for an Office. Bail bond agents work out of offices. They can’t work out of jails, and if they ask you to meet somewhere other than an office, move on to another agent.
Pay Attention to What They Charge. The amount for bond premiums varies from state to state. In Florida, that amount is 10% of the total bond (except for immigration bonds). If you’re being asked to pay a higher premium in Florida, find another agent.
Ask to See Their License. If they’re legitimate, they’ve been asked this before and will be able to easily show you their license. In Florida, the license is a Resident Limited Surety Agent License.
Most bail bond agents are legitimate business people providing a service to people during a difficult time. Most are sympathetic individuals who, even though it is their livelihood, will take the time to make sure that you understand the process while they get you out of jail quickly and discreetly.
If you’ve been arrested in Central Florida and need a bail bond agent you can trust, call Mercy Bail Bonds today at (727) 856-7775. Our caring staff will help you every step of the way.