Many house lockboxes use common codes

Posted at: 09/20/2013 11:17 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

KOB's 4 On Your Side has learned a handful of lockbox codes could potentially open houses across Bernalillo County.

Earlier this week, 4 On Your Side's Caleb James told us about a string of thefts in vacant homes for sale across the metro.

On Friday night, foreclosed homes are in the spotlight.

These empty houses have lockboxes with the front door keys inside just like empty houses for sale, but foreclosure lockboxes are rarely electronic.

An Albuquerque contractor says there's a major weakness in that system.

"There's hundreds of them out there, thousands probably in Bernalillo County alone that are vacant, sitting here," said Robb Sanchez.

Sanchez knows foreclosures. He's basically a repo-landlord, with his own property service company contracted by banks and the federal government -- to watch over vacant foreclosed homes.

"There's several companies who do what I do in Bernalillo County," he said.

Sanchez says the industry amounts to a handful of companies with access to hundreds if not thousands of foreclosed homes. They use manual lockboxes to store their keys.

But here's the shocker:

"There's only like two or three codes that they use, and they use them over, and over, and over, and have for 15 years that I've been in the business," he said. "It's easy."

Easy, says Sanchez, means anyone who works for foreclosure security services like his has access to the codes and keys. Sanchez even carries a list of 20 common ones, and he bets they can get us into any vacant foreclosure we want.

The handful of access codes is well known in the contracting community.

4 On Your Side tried one of the most common codes on a random house in the South Valley, and it popped the lockbox open on the first try. The keys fit in the front door lock.

Sanchez says it's a major security concern.

He tells us empty homes in foreclosure have always been targets for thieves. Just a couple days ago this property he manages was broken into -- he says the appliances were ripped out by the former owners.

But he doesn't think that's the norm anymore.

"The larger number of people coming into these properties and taking stuff is not the previous homeowners," he said "It's people who were affiliated somehow with field services. It could be the guy who worked for the pest control owner, the guy who worked for me."

Sanchez says it's costing you money.  

Every time something is ripped out of a home in foreclosure, government backed mortgage lenders who own the properties have to pay to replace it.

Sanchez said he hopes companies start using more codes, and keep them to themselves.