I am missing items from my safe deposit box. The bank has stated that it is not at fault. What can I do?

Your remedies generally depend on state law or the safe-deposit agreement.

Typically, banks use control systems to ensure that only authorized persons have access to safe deposit boxes. The goal is to allow only the safe deposit box renter to have access to and the ability to remove items from the box.

A bank may defend itself against a claim of unauthorized access or missing items by showing that its controls were followed. There are two main types of controls:

  • Dual control: Two people—usually a bank employee and the renter—are required to open the box. In this way, no one person can ever open the box and remove the contents.
  • Authorized signature: When the safe deposit account is opened, all persons authorized to access the box sign a signature card. The bank allows only those individuals to open the box. From then on, the bank records the signature of any individual allowed to open the box.

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

  • court order,
  • search warrant,
  • rental delinquency on the box, or
  • branch closure.

Generally, when a safe deposit box is opened under any of these circumstances, at least two people must be present to inventory the box’s contents. The bank will keep the contents in the vault for safekeeping.

Contact the bank immediately if you believe content is missing from your safe deposit box. If your bank is a national bank or federal savings association, and you are unable to resolve the issue with the bank, file a written complaint with the Office of the Comptroller’s (OCC) Customer Assistance Group.

If your bank is not a national bank or federal savings association, you should file a complaint with the appropriate regulator.