MCSO officials say there have been reports that victims are getting calls about a loved one being arrested and needing to be bailed out, but they were asked to send the money through an app.
“Basically someone calls and says hey someone in your family is arrested. In a lot of cases, they are in our facility and they need you to send them some money to bail them out. There is some pressure applied, they play on your emotions,” said Mike Swafford, Morgan County Public Information Officer.
Don’t fall for this! Scammers have been using some version of that scenario for several years, sometimes even claiming to be from reputable businesses, like bail bond companies.
Sarah White, manager of Three Sisters Bail Bonding Inc. in Morgan County, has received calls from people who have been scammed. She detailed what to look out for – as well as what credible bonding agents will say and do.
“Reputable licensed Bonding companies require information on our clients prior to requesting any bonding fees. We prefer to meet people in person at the jail to fill out our paperwork and require information on both the inmate and the client. Most bonding companies will accept credit card payments, but we typically use more traditional methods such as Square, Clover, or PayPal, and we prefer the transaction to be done in person with the card holder present when possible. Bonding companies must turn in bonds at the jail. We cannot do it remotely. If you’re contacted by anyone claiming to be a bonding agent, ask them what company they work for, and do a quick google search to see if the company exists in your area. It would also be a good idea to call the jail, and confirm that the company is licensed to bond for that jail.
You will know if you’re speaking to a fraudulent company If they: Refuse to meet you at the jail, or at their office, if they request payment without asking basic information about the inmate, i.e. current address, employment history, references etc… or if they ask you to western Union, Cashapp, or Venmo payment over the phone.”Sarah White, Three Sisters Bail Bonding
Legitimate bail bond companies accept cash, credit, and debit cards. If they won’t accept cash or want payment through phone apps, like CashApp or Venmo, it could be a scam.
“Always verify who the bonding company is by checking with Google, the sheriff’s office or police department, demand to meet in person at their office, or by checking with the circuit clerk’s office,” MCSO said on social media. “Bonding companies and their agents must be approved and on file with the circuit clerk.”
The bail bond process also requires paperwork. “Any legitimate bail bonding company would have to meet the defendant or cosigner to get them out.”
Swafford said that if you receive one of these suspicious phone calls, you should report it to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office. Tips can be given by contacting the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office at 256-351-4800 option 7 or using their TipLink.