Seems like there’s no safe place to store your money these days. Under your mattress? Natural disasters could wipe out your whole house. Bank accounts? Considering the new fees and bank failures popping up left and right, it’s a precarious environment.
That’s why some people choose to store their valuables in banks’ safe deposit boxes, which are basically lockers that allow you to take advantage of the presumed security of the bank building for a fee.
However, just this past week, a woman in California discovered that her Wells Fargo safe deposit box had been rented out to another customer, resulting in the disappearance of important family treasures. Though tragic, mix-ups do happen. But some losses are more deliberate — lest you think that bank robbery seems like a negligible worry best left to inventive movie plots.
Lock It Up
General consensus states that bank safe deposit boxes should be kept in the bank vault, though not all banks necessarily adhere to this. A friend of mine who worked at a small California bank two years ago told me about a robbery of her bank’s safe deposit boxes, a burglary made easier by the fact that the safe deposit box room was not actually in the vault; it was just a separate room within the bank that the robber(s) accessed via the roof.
A similar instance occurred in New York last August when a robber raided a TD Bank branch’s safe deposit boxes through the roof, something that shouldn’t be possible if the deposit boxes are stored in a secure vault. It’s a huge oversight, as well as a reminder that before you get a safe deposit box, you should always ascertain that they are located in the most secure area of the bank.
Unfortunately, even a bank vault isn’t guaranteed to be impenetrable. Although statisticians have concluded that bank robbing isn’t the lucrative endeavor it once was, determined burglars haven’t been deterred, as 2013 started off with a high-profile heist last month in Germany. Similarly, an Argentina bank’s safety deposit boxes were stolen in 2011 via a carefully planned tunnel.
Things To Consider
The secretive nature of keeping a safety deposit box generally works against the customer if the box gets lost, stolen or destroyed, as it is difficult to prove what was contained inside. One way to protect your belongings is to copy or scan documents before placing them in a waterproof bag inside the deposit box.
As safe deposit boxes are not insured by the FDIC, you might look into buying fire or theft insurance for those items. You can also purchase jewelry insurance for your shiny valuables and heirlooms. When you shop around for a safe deposit box, ask questions about how secure the boxes are against theft, fire or other damages. Take a tour of the place if you can to get a feel for how safe or private the vault is.
In general, the majority of safe deposit box customers don’t encounter problems, as it is the bank’s priority to keep the vault safe. High-stakes bank robberies are relatively rare, but they demonstrate that no location is completely secure. Perhaps we should learn not to form too strong an attachment to our earthly possessions?