MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities woman thought her cash and valuables were literally money in the bank. But, then she discovered more than $60,000 and family heirlooms missing from her safe deposit box.
It’s been the question hanging over Laura Wade’s head for the last month.
“How is this possible?” Wade said.
Since she says her safe deposit box turned out to be anything but.
“Every bonus, every birthday gift, I had a couple of friends die and leave me a nice chunk of change. Everything went in there,” Wade said.
For 25 years she kept her valuables in a box at a bank.
Until last year, when she moved them to this MidWestOne branch in Golden Valley. Last month, Wade went back to pay the annual $35 rental fee and to pick up an old picture inside.
“I just opened the lid and was like, ‘What’s going on? Where’s all my stuff? What the hell?’ That’s exactly what I said,” Wade said.
“I’m like, oh my god everything is gone,” she said.
Her passport, will, birth certificate and jewelry that belonged to her great grandma.
And, a lot of cash.
“$67,000 worth of saved money, all my 40 years of saving every penny I’ve ever gotten in cash,” Wade said.
Cash she had planned to travel with when she retires.
“You’re better off burying it in your backyard,” Wade said.
But what Wade says makes it even worse, is what’s spelled out in her contract. The bank isn’t responsible to cover any of the contents in her safe deposit box.
“How do you get away with selling safety with a clause that says you have no liability?” Wade wondered.
Wade is now on a mission to make customers think twice about their own boxes.
“I don’t know what is going on but I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” Wade said.
Dave McGuinn is a former banker and founder of Safe Deposit Specialists in Texas. McGuinn trains bank workers how to better protect some of the 25 million boxes across the country.
“Nobody reads the contract they put that thing in front of you and you sign it,” McGuinn said.
“Until something like this happens you start wondering what did I commit myself to and that’s when all of this comes about,” he said.
McGuinn hears of at least a dozen cases, similar to Wade’s, each year. He says FDIC insurance covers only deposit accounts at banks. Box items aren’t covered. It’s why he tells banks to display no-insurance disclosures in the vault for all to see.
“Clear up that confusion. It is the biggest area where consumers think you have insurance,” McGuinn said.
From rotating locks, to signature and key requirements, McGuinn offers a report card for customers to run through before renting a box.
Simple basic questions that if the bank is doing all this we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.”
MidWestOne Bank says it can’t comment on individual customers, but a spokesperson says the franchise has policies and procedures subject to regulatory scrutiny. They require investigations when appropriate. The bank also says it cooperates with federal regulators and local law enforcement.
MidWestOne Bank also says boxes can only be accessed with two keys. Employees can’t open them with the bank’s key alone. The bank says they require identification — but Wade says that didn’t happen in her case.
Golden Valley police are investigating what happened in Wade’s case.
“I’m not letting go of this. I want the perpetrators to be caught,” Wade said.
She hopes her story prompts others to visit their vaults and look closely at their contracts.
“There’s no excuse for this happening to people,” she said.
There are companies that sell safe deposit box insurance. It’s best to check with your insurance.