Want to be a bounty hunter?
Start with these savvy tips from a veteran bail enforcement agent: Read everything. Volunteer as an apprentice. Take cold cases.
Without a doubt, here’s the number one question I get regarding bail enforcement: “How do I get into this line of work?” The people asking usually claim some sort of military or law enforcement experience, but just as many have no experience at all. In the end, it really doesn’t matter.
While law enforcement or military training may help you perform the duties of this job, actually getting started is a totally different thing. I will try to answer this question as best as I can, because the reality of how people end up in this line of work is usually as varied as the individuals themselves.
Are you qualified?
You’d think that this would be a no-brainer. But you’d be surprised by the number of people who are interested in this work and don’t meet the qualifications. They may be too young (21 is a common minimum) or lack the minimum educational requirements. (Some states require a HS diploma or GED.) They may be unlicensed (in states where licenses are required) or have felony convictions (not permitted in some states). And keep in mind: Some states require applicants to be of good moral character. Are you?
Before investing too much time or money in breaking into this field, take the time to research the particulars and qualifications—which can usually be found in the codes or regulating agencies of each state.
Learning the business:
You’ve done your research and found nothing that would prevent you from becoming a bail enforcement agent. How do you find out more about the job? Start by reading everything you can find about this line of work on the Internet. Not all of the information will be accurate or helpful, but there’s an amazing amount of solid data available from internet forums (e.g. fugitiverecovery.com) or online courses (e.g. beabountyhunter.com). Both of these sites offer information by seasoned professionals who’ve invested lots of time helping new people get started.
I would caution a new agent to be wary of any “schools” that are not recognized by their state or that offer outlandish claims of “high paying careers” or “unlimited income.” Many of these are designed to separate you from your money and won’t offer you much more than a shiny badge or “credentials” that have absolutely no worth. When investing your hard earned money, I cannot stress enough that you should familiarize yourself with the Latin phrase, “Caveat emptor!”
Another great way to educate yourself about the business is to offer your time to a bail-skip hunter in your area as an apprentice. This can be difficult because bail enforcement agents are, by nature, very suspicious and don’t tend to be particularly approachable. However, if you’re persistent and respectful, it can be done.
I can guarantee that the knowledge you’ll get from hands-on experience will be more practical and beneficial, but it’s also, invariably, riskier. Missing a question on a test is no big deal, but making a mistake in the field could result in an end to your career or even your life. I can’t stress enough that before you team up with another hunter, you should interview with him and make inquiries about him. You should learn as much as possible about your potential mentor, because you are essentially gambling your future (and in some cases your life) on how he handles himself.
Acquiring a caseload:
Now that you’ve done your homework and gotten the necessary pre-requisites covered, you’re ready to take on your first case. You’ve called all the bonding companies in your area, only to be told that they’re not hiring or they have someone who “already does that.” How do you break in?
First, there are essentially two types of BEAs: In-house investigators are usually employees of a bonding company and have a built-in caseload. Independent contractors—what you usually think of when you hear the term “bounty hunter”— have to learn to solicit business from several companies in order to generate enough income to make this job worthwhile.
If you become known as the guy who can bring in cold cases, you'll quickly find yourself with more work than you can handle.
Prepare yourself for some initial disappointment. As I said previously, it’s hard to break into this business. I will, however, offer one course of action that was very successful for me: Go to meet the bonding company owner at his office. Dress professionally (no tactical gear or camouflage), and offer to tackle his “cold cases.” These are cases that have usually been worked to death (or are close to being paid). The bonding company owner is usually more willing to offer these cases to independent contractors because he has very little to lose if you don’t find them.
If you become known as the guy who can bring in cold cases, you’ll quickly find yourself with more work than you can handle. As you gain the confidence of one bonding company owner, word will spread, and you’ll be well on your way to building a solid reputation.
To anyone who is serious about pursuing this line of work, I wish you the best of luck. It won’t be easy, but if you succeed, you’ll always have exciting experiences and interesting work to do.