View Full Version : How do you rent a safe deposit box?

01-02-2007, 08:04 AM
I'm trying to figure out if it's possible for my characters to get into a safe deposit box without (otherwise) robbing the bank. In my research, it appears that anyone who needs access to the box signs a form when the rental is made.

1) Does this form have a specific name, like a renter's agreement or something?

2) Does the bank have copies of their photo ID?

The characters know which box they need, and they know the name of the renter. What they don't have is the key. How could they simply walk up there and say, "Hey, I'm Jane Smith, and I lost my key to box 123. Could I get the lock drilled out?" and actually convince a bank employee to do so?

Alternate idea: get into the vault by renting an adjacent box and use that brief moment inside the vault to take pictures of the interior of the lock using a rice-sized camera (assume we can do that) to make a duplicate key.

Now we have a duplicate key, the name of the renter, and the box number. Will the bank ask for a photo ID from the MC, or do you think she'll be able to get through if she forges the name and has a key?

I hope that explains my dilemma well enough.

Thanks for any help you guys can provide!

DA, who does not advocate "the cool crime of robbery."

01-02-2007, 08:37 AM
My bank never asks for an ID when I get into my safety deposit box. I walk up to the desk, tell them I need to get into mine, they ask for my name, pull out my card and date it, then hand it to me to sign. The dates and signatures from my previous entries are on the same card for comparison. They then escort me down to the vault, take out their key, take my key, (it requires two to open the safety deposit box), unlock the door of my box, slide the box out, then let me step across the hall into the private room where I can access it without them knowing what I have in there or what I'm doing with it. They wait for me. I bring the box back, they slide it back into place, relock it, hand me my key back, then escort me back to the main part of the bank.

Lots of casual conversation about the weather and weekend plans ensue while being escorted to and from the vault.

ETA: I did have to show ID when I first rented it, but I don't remember if they photocopied it or not.

01-02-2007, 08:41 AM
If I had to get it drilled out, I'm certain I'd have to prove who I was. That's not an ordinary request (oh, and they gave me two copies of my key when I rented the box).

However, musing and pondering here, if I claimed that all my identity was stolen, could otherwise prove who I was by knowing account numbers or something, and could get my signature to match, I probably could get it done. Or maybe your characters could claim the renter died or was in an accident and they needed to get to the POA's which were locked in the box? (I'm not certain how you'd gain access to it in the event of the renter's death or becoming incapacitated.)

01-02-2007, 08:45 AM
My experience is pretty much exactly like Birol's except that they leave me alone in the vault until I tell them; in other word, it's not a brief moment, I can take as soon as I like.

I would forget about using having the bank drill out the lock as a plot device. Too awkward, too risky, and too time consuming.

A question: Where are the actual keys? These keys are usually too large for someone just to keep on a key chain.

01-02-2007, 08:49 AM
My experience is pretty much exactly like Birol's except that they leave me alone in the vault until I tell them; in other word, it's not a brief moment, I can take as soon as I like.

What about cameras? I was thinking of having her brother cause a distraction that would get the security guards' attention off the vault camera for the brief second it takes my heroine to insert the camera into the lock, but if the vault doesn't have a camera, he wouldn't need to do that.

01-02-2007, 08:52 AM
Oops, meant to add, and thanks for your prompt answers.

A question: Where are the actual keys? These keys are usually too large for someone just to keep on a key chain.

My heroine's mother rented the box under a false name before she was killed, and the key is missing.

01-02-2007, 08:59 AM
I thought about a camera, but I don't remember there being one. Some people want privacy when they're opening their box, a camera would defeat the purpose. However, I really don't remember.

And, for most security guards I've seen, someone would have to cause a distraction to GET their attention away from the newspaper or chatting with the buxom blonde cashier. :-)

01-02-2007, 10:03 AM
I can take as long as I like in mine. I just never need more than a moment, but they never leave me alone in the vault, but in the room set aside for going through the box.

My key isn't that big. I keep it on my keychain. It's somewhere in size between my car key and house key. The bank's key is kept at the desk you go to when you sign in.

There's no visible camera in the room where I go to open the box. I've looked. I doubt that there is, because I know one of the employees uses the room to pump for breast feeding. I saw her exit it the last time I was there.

01-02-2007, 02:51 PM
At my bank, you go through the huge vault door, to the right is the safe deposit boxes, to the right is the actually vault the bank uses (I think there's a door with bars to this area--like a jail cell door--or it might be a solid door, I just don't remember).

After using both keys to open the safe deposit box and take down the inner box, they leave me in the safe deposit area to do whatever I need to do; there's a small, counter-height table I can use. The bank employee usually waits outside the main vault door. When I'm done, I just call for them. I'm sure if I spent more than ten minutes in there they would come to see about me.

I went and looked at my keys. They're not as big as I remembered; they're a bit longer than a house key and have big teeth. I think I was thinking of the key the bank uses, which may be a large brass key.

Getting in and out is all pretty casual. Mainly, they check my signature against the card they keep. As long as I have the key, and my signature matches, they're no problem.

01-02-2007, 06:44 PM
My bank works pretty much the same way. I go in, tell them which box I'm opening, and they have me sign the signature card. No one asks for my ID, although I think they did when we first got the box. The bank dude and I go into the vault, I use my key (which is pretty normal sized) and he uses his, and then I'm left alone with my stuff for as long as I need it.

01-02-2007, 07:00 PM
Cool. Sounds like I have a little leeway in how I want this particular bank to do it. I think, to make it more difficult for my protagonist to succeed, that I'll put privacy booths in an adjacent room instead of letting them stay inside the safe deposit box room.


01-02-2007, 07:10 PM
About drilling...Banks will drill the lock if the keys are stolen or lost. One bank I use charges a drilling fee of $150 and requires the lessee to be present with the lock technician during the drilling to sign the Entry Record card. They also drill a box due to unpaid rent or an unknown lessee or court order. In the case where no one claims the contents of a drilled box, the bank will turn over the contents to the state (which is based on escheatment laws of the state from what I understand).

The form you sign to gain access to the box at my bank is called an Entry Record card.

Tish Davidson
01-03-2007, 11:37 AM
At my bank (Wells Fargo) you have to have an account at the bank to rent a safe deposit box and you have to show photo ID every time you get into it. In addition, you have to sign a card that is time-stamped every time you get into the box and your signature has to match the signature you submitted whenever you opened the box. The card also says that you are stating that none of the boxholders have died (can't remember the exact wording).

01-03-2007, 09:01 PM
My bank never asks for ID when I add or remove something from my safety deposit box, but they know me. This is the big risk. Anyone who has a safety deposit box is very likely going to be known by someone in the bank.

And some banks do require a photo ID each and every time you enter the vault area.

And my key is very small. Not even quite as large as my car key.

And drilling is never an option at my bank. If you lose your key, they have a master. And I have gone in without my key. Even though most of the employees know me, they still checked my photo ID before opening the box for me.

On the plus side, the locks on most safety deposit boxes are not exactly state of the art, and picking one is not at all difficult, if you have the tools an dthe knowledge.

Some banks are now using safety deposit boxes that have no key, but use combination number pads instead.

Tish Davidson
01-04-2007, 07:12 AM
I'll add that I go to a very busy branch of my bank where there is a lot of teller turn-over. In a less urban area where you are a long-time client, you may not be asked for ID. Although I have banked here for 10 years, I do almost all my banking by ATM, so no one knows my face. As for picking the lock, in my bank there is a two key system. The bank has one key and I have the other. You give the key to the person who works for the bank when you get in the vault and then he or she inserts it and draws out the closed box and hands it to you and gives you your key back. Short of rendering this person unconscious, there is no way you would ever be alone in the vault so that you could pick the lock.