NAPLES, Fla - Thieves target three Naples apartment complexes and more than 50 victims stealing rent checks directly from drop boxes at the main office.
Many of the victims canceled the stolen checks, but experts say just because they haven't been cashed, doesn't mean the victims are in the clear.
Joe George has lived in the Summer Wind Apartments for five years, always paying his rent on time with no issues, until a few weeks ago. "I dropped it off like I normally do, dropped it in the slot, no problem," says George. "A week later i got a notice saying my rent was late , $75 fee."
Joe is one of more than 50 victims living at three different apartment complexes in Naples where rent checks were stolen right out of the drop box.
"I don't like to be stolen from," says George. "It's like someone stealing your credit car number at the ATM."
The thieves targeted tenants at Bermuda Island Apartments off Vanderbilt Beach Road and Livingston Road, Summer Wind Apartments off Pine Ridge Road and Laguna Bay Apartments off Airport-Pulling Road stealing thousands of dollars worth of checks.
"What they do is they alter them. It's not that difficult to alter certain types of checks, depending on what company you use and what bank," says Naples attorney John P. Cardillo. He says it's easy for thieves to change both the name and the amount on checks and it happens more often than you think."
"If the landlord has designated a place where you drop off your rent, whether its an office or drop box, then when the tenant drops off the rent in the designated place, then it's the landlords responsibility for the balance of the delivery," says Cardillo.
After talking to us, George called his bank to put a freeze on his stolen check, but he was told that would do little to stop the crooks. Once they have your check that means they have your account number, routing number and signature. Instead, he was forced to get a brand new account.