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10 Types of Collateral and Tips to Secure It

Editor's note: This article was written by an industry professional and guest contributor Jason Pollock. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of AboutBail. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor, send an email to [email protected].

 Information to Collect from a Bail Applicant - Jason PollockAbout the Author: Jason Pollock received his first glimpse into the mysterious world of Fugitive Recovery as an operator in 1999 and he is now the owner and operator of Surety Risk Management, a professional Bail Enforcement and Risk Management Agency based in Los Angeles, California.  Jason has successfully located and apprehended approximately 1,700 “wayward bail clients” during his career as an operator, all with zero post-operation residual liability.  He is the former owner of a bail bond company that never paid a single summary judgment to any court and he is currently working on his first book, a project that is now more than ten years in the making.  Jason may be contacted at [email protected]

Securing CollateralSecuring collateral is a protective measure specifically geared towards preventing bail bond companies from suffering financial losses. Bail agents should secure something of significant value from their clients, to hold as collateral, in an effort to protect themselves from forfeitures and summary judgments. In our profession, we take somewhat of a hostage in that we take are secure forms of collateral. The value of the items taken as collateral should meet or exceed the penal amount of the bail bond(s) posted on the defendant’s behalf. If a bail bond company is truly diligent in their underwriting practices, they will do their absolute best to secure appropriate forms of collateral in an effort to ensure that all of their clients appear in court. This collateral is basically held for ransom to guarantee that the client fulfills all of the contractual obligations of the bail bond agreement; the most important of which are the defendant’s mandatory appearances in court.

If an appropriate form of collateral has been secured, and the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail agent will have two options:

  1. Motivation: If the bail agent is experiencing difficulties in locating the wayward bail client, the bail agent can use the collateral as the proper leverage to motivate the indemnitor (or whoever it was that deposited the collateral) to cooperate with the investigation. If an indemnitor has nothing to lose, then that indemnitor also has no real reason to assist you. If you have secured collateral that is of significant value to the indemnitor, then you can advise the indemnitor that unless the defendant is surrendered in a timely fashion, the collateral will be forfeited and liquidated to offset the expense of the summary judgment. Without collateral, you have no hostage, and any demands that you might make will most likely fall upon deaf ears.
  2. Liquidation: If the client fails to appear in court and cannot be located, apprehended, and surrendered within the forfeiture period, and the forfeiture cannot be set aside or vacated in a timely fashion, as set forth by law, then that collateral is forfeited to the bail bond company and the bail bond company will liquidate it in an effort to recoup any expenses incurred due to having been forced to pay the summary judgment.

Here are 10 of the best options for collateral and how to secure it:

  1. In my opinion, the best form of collateral is “Actionable Intelligence (Good, Timely, Positively-Verified Information).” Be sure to obtain the truthful answers from every applicant in reference to these three questions: Who knows exactly where you reside?  What vehicle(s) are you driving (be sure that you obtain the full description of that vehicle)?  Who are you “intimate” with (girlfriend/boyfriend, fiance, spouse)? The answers to these three questions are some of the most useful pieces of intelligence that an investigator can use to locate wayward bail clients. Whenever you are inquiring about an applicant’s references or cohabitants, be sure that you collect the following pieces of intelligence, in regards to those people: Full Name, Date of Birth (get their age, at the very least), their relationship to the applicant, Address, Phone Numbers, Employment Information, Email address, and web links to their social networking profiles. Actionable intelligence should be gleaned with two thoughts in mind. First: how will this information prevent the client from jumping bail?  Second: if the client does jump bail, how will this information help to locate the client?
  2. Real Property can be an excellent form of collateral, provided that it has enough equity to cover the penal amount of all of your outstanding liability and so long as there are no liens against it. The best way to assess the true value of real property is to take a close look at the most recent bill from the financial institution that provided the loan for that property and deduct the amount of money that has been put towards the principal form the overall cost of the property. You may also want to check with the county recorder and county assessor to ensure that there are no liens on that property and that the applicant is the true owner of that property. You can use the following link to obtain a general idea of how much a certain property might be worth. In the State of California, bail bond companies will probably best be served by securing real property as collateral with a grant deed.
  3. Vehicles With Titles are a very common form of collateral. One of the most important aspects of securing a vehicle as collateral is determining the true value of that vehicle. When you are researching the value of a vehicle, select the “See Trade-In Value” option, as you may very well have to sell that vehicle in an effort to recoup a loss. You may not receive as much money for the vehicle, but at least you won’t be taking too much of a loss on it if you do have to sell it to an automobile dealership. Unless you are a highly-skilled professional who knows exactly how to evaluate and appraise a vehicle’s condition and value, then choose the “Fair” trade-in value, as this will also help you avoid taking too much of a financial loss, if you have to liquidate a vehicle. After you have been satisfied that the vehicle does hold enough value to be used as collateral, you and the registered owner of that vehicle should execute the title so that you take legal ownership of that vehicle. Some private companies that offer D.M.V. services excel at these types of transaction and may be of great assistance to you. They can usually expedite the title transfer process in a much speedier fashion than you can. Whether or not you take physical control of that vehicle and its keys is entirely up to you. If you chose to do so, make sure that you secure all sets of keys for that vehicle.  
  4. Cash is an awesome form of collateral, provided an applicant can actually produce the full amount. I have found from personal experience that cash collateral often cannot be obtained, but once in awhile when the bail amount is low, some applicants can actually produce the cash collateral necessary to properly secure a bail bond.
  5. Credit cards can sometimes be utilized to secure your bail bond(s).  I have personally used credit card authorization forms that granted me the cardholder’s permission to run the credit card for the penal amount of the bail bond(s) should the defendant fail to appear in court or otherwise violate the terms and conditions as outlined in the bail bond contract. I have also used that form to secure my collateral when wayward bail clients failed to appear in court. As if by magic, the cardholder called my bail bond company within a few days of that credit card transaction, demanding to know why such a large transaction was placed on the credit account. After I explained that the client had failed to appear in court and that the card was run to secure the necessary collateral, which would be returned to the cardholder upon the timely surrender of that wayward bail client. The cardholder gladly informed me as to the true whereabouts of that wayward bail client. If you should find yourself needing to run a credit card to fully collateralize your bail bond(s), you should first status check your bond with the court to ensure that it has not been exonerated, then it might be wise to batch out your credit card machine immediately after you run the credit card, and then transfer those funds from your merchant account into your collateral account. This would be done to prevent your client from contacting the credit card company and having those funds charged back to the client’s credit card. Also, when setting up your credit card machine and merchant account, it would pay huge dividends to investigate which credit card companies allow their cardholders to demand chargebacks without the credit card company having first contacted you or received your consent to do so. I would not accept credit cards from such companies for any transactions with my bail bond company.
  6. Jewelry can be used as collateral, provided that one knows how to properly appraise the true value of jewelry. Being that I am not a professional jeweler, gemologist or precious metals expert, I personally would not feel too comfortable with having to execute such an undertaking. I would be more apt to request that the client pawn the jewelry and then bring the cash secured from that transaction to me as a form of collateral that I would feel much more secure with holding. There can be some pitfalls associated with securing jewelry as collateral. One instance that comes to mind is how the collateral is specifically described on the collateral receipt. If a client gives you a brass ring with a cubic zirconia mounted to it and you write up the collateral receipt as a gold ring with a diamond mounted to it, then when it comes time to return that collateral, you can end up in a bit of a tight spot. If the depositor of that collateral presses the issue, you will find yourself owing that person a gold ring with a diamond mounted on it. The best way to draft that receipt would be to describe that ring as a “yellow metal ring with a white or clear stone” mounted to it. Another thing that you should consider before accepting jewelry as collateral is the issue of safely securing it until the time comes to return it to the depositor or liquidate it.
  7. Promissory Notes are an interesting form of collateral, which I used to secure every bail bond that I ever wrote, but never did a promissory note help me to locate a wayward bail client. It did, however, help my collections agency when they were attempting to collect money that was owed on accounts receivables.
  8. My Waiver of Extradition form was used by a bail enforcement agent that I hired in Georgia. That agent located one of my wayward bail clients who had failed to appear in court in the custody of a jail in another southern state. Said bail enforcement agent used this form to gain the Judge’s blessing to release that wayward bail client into his custody so that he could return that fugitive to Las Vegas to answer to his pending charges.
  9. A document providing authorization for you to ping the applicant’s cell phone(s) can make locating a wayward bail client a snap. You should consult with an attorney when drafting this document. Other bail agents are already using such a document, so it doesn’t hurt to ask around and see if they will supply you with a copy of their document.
  10. Cell Phone Downloads can provide a bail bond company with a plethora of intelligence. There is software/hardware available that will allow you to tether an applicant’s cell phone to your computer and download all of the contact information that is stored in their cell phone to your computer. Just imagine all of the skiptracing opportunities that this type of intelligence could provide.

One way of looking at collateral is that it is the bail agent’s ball and chain because it makes it difficult for the prisoner to escape from custody. When you don’t secure your client’s collateral, you make it much easier for them to violate the terms of their bond and skip.   

Additional articles on bail applicants

Stay tuned for more tips on how you can prevent clients from jumping bail.

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