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What if Contents are Missing From Your Safe Deposit Box?

Updated on February 17, 2013

Items Missing From Your Safe Deposit Box

Lately, on investigative news reports, people have complained about having problems with their safe deposit boxes. One issue has been missing items - another has been the missing safe deposit box itself.

With banks shutting down it is not unusual for the box itself to go missing. However, your bank will defend itself against your claim(s) and will say it is not at fault. It will show that its controls were followed.

It is up to you to know the rules

As far as missing items, banks typically use certain control systems to ensure that only authorized persons have access to the safe deposit box.

The two main controls are ‘authorized signature’ and ‘dual control.’

Authorized signature - is when the safe deposit account is initially opened. All persons authorized to access the safe deposit box must sign the signature card. The bank can only allow those individuals to enter the box. From that point on, the bank records the signature of any individual allowed to enter the box.

Dual Control - this is when two people - usually the renter and a bank employee - are required to open the box. This way, no one person can ever open the box and remove contents.

Dual control may be required by law whenever a safe deposit box is opened without the renter’s permission. This could include when a box is opened due to:

- branch closure

- court order

- pursuant to a search warrant

- rental delinquency on the box

As a rule, when a safe deposit box is opened by force, at least two people must be present to inventory the box’s contents. In this instance the bank is supposed to keep the contents in their vault for safekeeping.

If your box is missing

If your box is missing, as in the case of branch closure or rental delinquency, the box may be drilled open and the contents removed. Then the contents will be inventoried, usually under dual control. If the contents of the box remain unclaimed, state law will determine then if the contents will be turned over to your state’s treasurer for safekeeping. The period of time is usually from two to five years.

Most states require that the bank send notice to you of this impending transfer. It will be sent to your address of record on the bank’s books. In an age when all bill paying is done online - it’s important to be sure that your bank has your current address on file. It does matter.

A True Story

Here’s a true story: I was surprised to find that even though I ordered checks some years ago, and put my current address on the checks - the checks were sent to an address from many years ago. I had even changed my address by telephone with the bank - and all my statements came to my current address - yet for some reason the bank had that first address as the address of record. If you have ever moved and kept the same bank you may want to check to see what address they have on file.

If you want to find out if your missing property from your safe deposit box was sent to the state you can either contact your state treasurer/unclaimed property office or you can start your search by visiting

Note: This information has been provided by the:

Comptroller of the Currency

Administrator of National Banks

US Department of the Treasury

be safe


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    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks for the vote Danette West. There were a lot of problems here in NYC a few years back because so many banks were (quietly) crashing and burning. It's been quiet lately - I'm glad.

      Thanks for writing!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      I hadn't heard of any problems with safe deposit boxes before. I've had one for years. Although the Dual Control is a good idea.

      Voted up and useful

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Good point World-Traveler about traveling. I've always been hesitant to use those hotel safe boxes. How would I know for sure if they are safe - and if I'm leaving in a few days I am at a disadvantage if the process takes time.

      And unfortunately, the victim is not always believed.

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 7 years ago from USA

      This is a very good question. To help reduce the possibility of this I would have my attorney present when the deposit was made including a signed affidavit accompanied by a signed and notarized letter of deposit describing the items deposited.

      If items are missing from a safety deposit box at a hotel or hostel overseas well, it was probably an inside job. Call the local authorities and report the theft to your embassy or consulate.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      You're very welcome dearest one! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • alexandriaruthk profile image

      alexandriaruthk 7 years ago from US

      very helpful BK, thank you my dear and have a good weekend,

    • sophiewf profile image

      sophiewf 8 years ago from US

      good article

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Yes, justmesuzanne - it seems if anything goes wrong it is on us to prove the bank's fault.  And if we can't - too bad.

      Thanks einron, my cousin has dual citizenship and it seems there are far more stringent rules about a number of things in the UK.

    • einron profile image

      einron 8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      Thanks for the info. I feel the Banks Safety Deposit Boxex are safer in London, UK. The rules seem to be more stringent.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 8 years ago from Texas

      This is very timely for me. I was planning on putting something in my safe deposit box today, but now I won't! :D