Bail bond scam involving Cash App, gift cards, costly for victims

ATLANTA, Ga. — There is a new twist on an old scam involving Cash App. Dozens of Georgians have fallen for the scam, in which someone claims your loved one is in jail and that you need to send money fast to get them out.

“I cried. I mean, I lost so much money you know. That’s, that’s my rent and my bills,” said Winder resident Vickie McAulay. She felt devastated after losing about $1,000 trying to get her fiancé Danny out of the Barrow County Jail on Oct. 7. “That’s big money for me. I don’t make a lot. I’m on disability, also. So I can only work two days a week doing my job,” said McAulay.

She said a man going by the name of Alex Smith first contacted Danny’s father, who sent money to get Danny out of the Gwinnett County Jail. But then deputies transferred Danny to the Barrow County Jail on an outstanding warrant.

Smith suggested she use Cash App. “Just if my phone does Cash App, he can do that and that I can send money that way,” said McAulay. But she doesn’t use Cash App. Smith told her to buy several Money Paks. She did and texted him the numbers.

But when McAulay went to pick Danny up from jail, she realized something wasn’t right. “When he didn’t come out. And he kept on saying another 30 minutes and another 30 minutes, and he didn’t come out,” said McAulay.

She is one of about 40 of Smith’s victims to call Ryan Matalon, the co-owner of A 2nd Chance Bail Bonds. “Anywhere from crying, bawling, crying because they just sent money that they didn’t have to begin with. It’s always a financial burden. It’s never — no one has money saved up to go to jail,” said Matalon.

Matalon said Smith is telling people he’s with A 2nd Chance Bail Bonds and another local bail bond company. “They’ll use information from our website. They’ll use a logo. And they’ll try to portray themselves as working for our company and convincing these people to send money to them,” said Matalon.

Channel 2 filed open-records requests with law enforcement in Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Walton counties. The only report received involved an “Alex Smith” trying to get $158 from a Loganville woman in September 2018. She didn’t fall for it because she knew her loved one wasn’t in jail.

Matalon said there are two things you can do to avoid falling for this scam. You can Google the company to make sure it is legit and ask for paperwork. “If there is no paperwork involved in the process, and there’s no conversation about that, that means it’s usually a scam,” said Matalon.

If you send money to a scammer using Cash App, you’re out of luck. “Once you send the money, it is what it is. It’s gone, and Cash App’s response to it, once we’ve reached out to them, was, ‘You need to trust who you send money to. You need to know who you send money to,’” said Matalon.

McAulay learned that the hard way. She thinks Smith deserves to have the book thrown at him. “I think he should go to jail or to prison. And I think he should be, have to pay the people back that he did this to,” said McAulay.

Matalon said another reason authorities are having a hard time finding Smith is scammers use IP phones that use the internet. There is no phone bill or name attached to the number, so the person making these phone calls is hard to find.