A safe deposit box should, by definition, be "safe." However, to her surprise, that is precisely the opposite of what a California woman discovered a few days ago.
Susan Nomi said that when she went to open the Bank of America safe deposit box she had for 16 years, the entire box had vanished. The safe is where she kept her family’s jewelry and her dad’s coin collection.
“I was in shock; I was just like what happened to my box,” said Nomi, quoted by CBS Sacramento.
Worse, Bank of America - which was custodian of the safety box - couldn't explain where her valuables went: “They don’t have an answer. They don’t have an answer. They say thanks for letting us know,” Nomi said.
Making matters worse for the infuriated woman, she herself was a retired Bank of America employee of 40 years; and she’s not alone. Others have complained that Bank of America drilled their safe deposit boxes without permission or notice.
Another dissatisfied customer, Wendy Woo, said her belongings were taken out of her safe deposit box and shipped to her by the bank: "Everything was dumped in a plastic bag," said Woo. In the process, a ring went missing and a necklace was damaged in the process.
“Safe deposit box... that’s what it’s for, safe,” she said, only not when the safe belongs to Bank of America.
A second family complained that it too had gotten the contents of their safe deposit box shipped back too, but claim $17,000 in jewelry was missing.
"I just got robbed from the bank," another woman complained: "They just took my stuff."
Needless to say, what makes these situations bizarre, is that according to federal rules, banks can drill a box without permission only when there is a court order, search warrant, delinquent rental fees, requests from estate administrators, or if the bank is closing a branch. And yet none of those reasons applies to any of these cases.
Safe deposit box consultant Dave Guinn trains bank employees on proper safe deposit box procedures. He says federal law requires that banks give customers adequate notice.
“A notification should be made either by registered letter or by certified receipt letter,” said Guinn.
Meanwhile, in tis defense BofA said it does “…notify customers by mail in accordance with law well in advance prior to drilling a box.” But former employee Nomi’s not buying it: "I worked for them. It’s not like they couldn’t get a hold of me or anything."
Adding to her Nomi's frustration, Bank of America still can’t explain what happened to her valuables but said, "We certainly understand how frustrating this matter is for Mrs. Nomi and we are working with her on a resolution. We are looking at this situation to help us identify opportunities to help avoid similar events in the future as we continue to work on improving service to our customers." She said "I can’t ever replace it. It’s irreplaceable, doesn’t matter how much its worth."
Eventually, once the CBS news team got involved, the bank finally agreed to cut her a check. BofA also paid to fix Mrs. Woo’s damaged jewelry but left each of them wondering how safe a safe deposit box is.
Nomi has advice for others: “Check what’s in your box,” and “If you haven’t been in it for a while, make sure it’s there.”
The Bank of America rental agreement says they could terminate your rental agreement for your safe deposit box if you don’t give proper identification when requested. The customers in these incidents say that does not apply to their cases.
Banks have strict regulations they must follow, one being they have to have two keys to get into a box, yours and theirs. Plus, if a box has been drilled open, the bank must have a record of it being drilled.
So for all those readers who still hold gold in a bank vault, confident it will be there come rain or shine, now may be a time to quietly take it all out and have a small boating accident...