PuristSPro Advice: Don't Blindly Trust Your Bank Safe Deposit Box!

May 06, 2017,11:17 AM

Your safe deposit box at your bank may not be as secure as you think!  Moderator Patrick_y shares some unscrupulous bank practices and accidents that happen to safe deposit boxes, along with recommendations and advice on how you can better prevent and protect yourself from such an accident or unfortunate circumstance.  Remember, reputable banks commit criminal acts too! 

This beautiful safe by German manufaktur Dottling can fit 1-3 watches! 

I saw this news article last night on the local news in San Francisco last night and I just wanted to share this to other PuristSPro members.  The video shows a large bank chain that drilled customer's safety deposit boxes for no reason, dumped the contents into a plastic bag, damage and lose some of the contents, then mail them back to the customers months later mangled and tangled in a standard cardboard UPS/FedEx box.  The bank claimed they mailed documents to the box tenants, but none of them received them.  The tenants also had numerous contacts left with the bank and claim to have been never contacted. 

I recently suffered some paperwork problems at my local bank where the bank claimed they mailed me documents.  I never received them and I'm in doubt they ever mailed them.  Also, the bank had two phone numbers and an email to contact me.  I had no voicemails nor miss calls nor emails from the bank.  The bank fabricates stories.  I didn't discover the problem until one day I went to the branch! 


Banks in the United States have no regulation on how to store and maintain your contents at a safety deposit box.  Since it's done at the branch level, by employees with little and infrequent specialized training, a lot of problems and mismanagement happens when your safety deposit box is drilled. 

Every security plan is three parts; 1, prevention and preparation (active safety), do what you can to prevent a mistake from happening to you; 2, loss mitigation of the situation if unavoidable (passive safety) make things difficult for the perpetrator; 3, recovery of loss post situation (aftermath) use your written-down serial numbers and copies of documents to get your original property back.

I'm not advocating that you move your contents from your safety deposit box and PuristSPro is not a security consulting company.  Those important papers, watches, and jewelry are likely to be safer at the bank than at a typical home of office.  But I am advocating you follow these steps to protect yourself:
1.  Go to the bank and ask for a copy of your safe deposit box contract. 
2.  Take a photo of it with your cell phone camera and keep digital copies in two safe places accessible by the cloud.  Also, what happens if you suffer a stroke or memory loss?  Keep a hard copy in your desk so you remember that you even have a safety deposit box. 
3.  While you're at the bank, go over the paperwork and make sure everything is filled out, correct, and satisfactory and that the bank has your address and phone numbers accurately.  Go over it with the bank manager and take his/her business card.  Bank managers move often and see many customers and won't remember you, so write down on the back of the business card the date, time, and reason for your visit, "Update Deposit Box Info." 
4.  Don't forget what you keep in your box.  Sometimes I wonder what papers and contents are inside my box.  I can imagine it gets even more confusing when you have more than one box.  Keep an inventory of what files, important papers, and valuable objects are inside your box.  We tend to remember what valuables we put into our boxes, but we forget which deeds and insurance policy paperworks we put in.  Keep a standardized system.  Yes, the ownership deed to the 20 year old car goes in only because all the other car deeds are in the box. 
5.  The steel door to your actual box is less secure than what you think.  Those doors may look impressive, but the locks and the hinges often malfunction, meaning someone can actually gain entry to your box by accident!  Lightly shake your door to make sure the hinges (which may have tiny pins going through them) are secure, visually inspect the hinge to make sure the pins aren't falling out.  A bank employee recently told me that the boxes actually open or the doors fall off when they had to tip a column of boxes to access something behind it for repairs! 
6.  Repeat all the steps above every 2-3 years.  Keep the inventory every time you go in and out, and reconcile the inventory twice a year.  Do a full inventory audit every 2-3 years. 

It's unlikely anything will ever happen and it's unlikely that the bank will mistakenly drill your box for the wrong reasons.  But accidents do happen.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best! 

  login to reply

Comments: view entire thread


Thank you

 By: charcoal6666collector : May 6th, 2017-12:11
It is good advice in deed my friend, actually the same thing happened in a Hong kong local bank about 10 years ago. Deposit boxes filled with clients belongings were accidentally removed and trashed into a local landfill because of "One BIG renovation mis... 

$100,000 HKD isn't a lot of money...

 By: patrick_y : May 6th, 2017-12:21
That's terrible and extreme negligence on the bank! It seems a large percentage of these problems happen during moves and renovations. One bank employee told me they were doing repairs to the wall behind the deposit boxes and when they moved the boxes, du... 

I have ground hogs and moles... I hope they don't eat the insurance papers and wear my watches!

 By: patrick_y : May 6th, 2017-12:42
Hmm, would I prefer a bank to lose my belongings or a ground hog and/or mole to eat them. Both sides look bad!

Lol good one XD just make sure your rub your titanium safe box with Wazabi and chillis :)

 By: charcoal6666collector : May 6th, 2017-13:44
only then your box can be ground hog, mole and dog proof XD

Good idea! [nt]

 By: patrick_y : May 7th, 2017-19:58

It's really small and really heavy!

 By: patrick_y : May 6th, 2017-15:32
And it's definitely a beautiful safe! I've seen a few and I'd love to have one!

Same thing goes, in general, for any offsite storage

 By: cazalea : May 6th, 2017-14:44
You should check the mini-storage warehouse, because the operators always want a set of key for fire / emergency reasons. And we often leave things so long we can't remember where they are. Here's my friend Kelley after finding a long-lost item of furnitu...  

Jeez louise!

 By: patrick_y : May 6th, 2017-15:37
What a story! Can't trust anyone! Imagine that roller coaster with your heart sinking. Thank goodness everything was still there. I heard of once a person's car was towed out of his own parking space. Apparently he parked in his parking space with his com... 

I have a bank story...

 By: cshimokita : May 6th, 2017-15:12
When I lived in LA I decided to make an after hours deposit at a local branch on a Friday evening... it turned out to be the weekend that that branch was closing and my deposit went missing... they eventually found the envelope in a waste basket... but no... 

The camera company you were writing bad checks to probably knew it was an honest mistake...

 By: patrick_y : May 6th, 2017-15:39
Joking above of course. That's not good. They should lock the deposit box closed if they're closing so they can't take any more deposits! Negligence again. Funny thing is that when we make a mistake, the bank fines us by charging mistake fees. But when th... 

"fairness" what a quaint thought...

 By: cshimokita : May 7th, 2017-02:25
to be 'fair' the bank reversed the overdraft charges ; )

Thanks for the advice my friend

 By: jrwong23 (aka watchthebin) : May 7th, 2017-06:51
some great points you raised Cheers Robin

You're welcome!

 By: patrick_y : May 7th, 2017-15:55
I hope nothing happens to you, but now you know how to prepare yourself if it does happen. Shame about what happened to the people in the news. Just terrible.