Last month in Collier County, Florida, residents of three communities woke up to the news that their rent checks had been stolen. Two men had broken into the deposit boxes where residents could drop off their checks once the community’s office had closed, getting away with tens of thousands of dollars.
How does this surprisingly common crime happen? Thieves insert a long, thin wire with a sticky substance on one end to snatch the checks. They then “wash” the stolen checks or money orders, chemically removing the original writing so they can alter the recipient and amount.
If you’re still using drop boxes or mail slots to collect checks, here’s what you need to know about securing a payment drop box–and protecting your residents’ hard-earned money from theft.
Securing a Payment Drop Box: 5 Steps
1. Upgrade to a more secure drop box with a metal baffle to prevent fishing.
2. Improve the security of your mail slot by raising its height to several feet off the ground; narrowing the slot to the size of an envelope; and adding a mail slot hood, safety flap, or even an air vent diverter to make it harder to stick a wire through.
3. Recommend that residents use black gel ink when writing checks, which is supposedly more difficult to remove.
4. To prevent liability issues, specify that the box is there for residents’ convenience, but that it’s optional and carries a risk of theft or loss.
5. It’s best to switch over to an online payment system to avoid these issues altogether. Residents get the convenience of paying at any hour of the day, but with the benefit of increased safety.
Last, consider hiring a property manager to collect payments, communicate with residents, and manage other time-consuming responsibilities. When you’re ready to start your search, All Property Management will be here to help.
Robin Burinskiy is the Senior Content Writer and Managing Editor for the All Property Management Blog and Buildium Blog. She cut her teeth as a marketing copywriter at Wayfair and TechTarget, and she spends her free time perfecting her lifestyle blog, Feather & Flint. She holds degrees in psychology, sociology, and songwriting.