Four apartment complexes in Carlsbad have recently experienced thefts of checks and money orders totaling nearly $50,000 from rental payment boxes. Police have notified local property managers of the thefts. National City, Vista, and Oceanside have also reportedly been hit by rent-check thieves.
In Carlsbad, it is mostly the money orders that are being manipulated and cashed, according to Jodee Sasway, public information officer for the Carlsbad Police Department. Sasway says many apartment managers have an inked stamp with the apartment complex name on it; because of this, some tenants leave the “pay to” line blank, making it easy for thieves to cash the checks. Sasway warns that tenants should always fill out checks and money orders completely.
Check-washing, the term given to the removal of the check recipient's name — to be substituted with another — has not been evident in the Carlsbad cases but has been a problem in other areas of the county.
Sasway offered several additional tips to renters, including:
— Use a gel pen when making out money orders or checks. (It is more difficult to "wash" the ink from gel pens than from regular ink pens.)
— Make sure your payment envelope is completely in the rental box.
— Give your check to the property manager in person.
— Check to see if there is an opportunity to pay your rent online.
— In the case of checks, contact your bank and put an immediate "stop payment" on stolen checks.
The Carlsbad Police Department continues to investigate the cases, but no arrests have been made.