Sunday, November 22, 2009

Keeping Your Valuables Safe...Some Surprising Findings

Imagine if you held valuables in a safety deposit box, paid your bills and had a checking account with that bank. You also had all your papers in perfect order, including your name and address. Then, you find that your box has been seized, important documents shredded and valuables taken. Furthermore, the valuables have been sold at a fraction of their value.  You weren't even notified.  Well, a report by ABC claims that this exact scenario happened not too long ago to a woman named Carla Ruff at the Noe Valley Bank near San Francisco.

Carla apparently isn't alone.  Attorney Bill Palmer has represented her and countless others in a class action suit against the State of California. I believe that Carla's case was settled by Bank of America, which owns the Noe Valley Bank.

California, which is in desperate financial straits, has passed a law that if a box has been unvisited in 3 years, it should be considered unclaimed. Therefore,  it is subject to seizure.  Other states have passed similar laws.

Risk of seizure of safety deposit boxes doesn't stop there.  According to the ACLU, the "Patriot Act" allows for citizens engaged in "civil disobedience" to be labeled as terrorists. This permits the government an even greater right to seize property like that contained in safety deposit boxes, especially Gold and Silver. To be fair, the law may have been well intended since it is conceivable that a group of terrorists could rent a bunch of boxes and place explosives in them, wreaking havoc on the financial system.  To my knowledge, this has never happened...  but it could!

I want to make it clear that my intention is neither to engage in conspiracy thinking nor to unnecessarily scare anyone.  I'm merely trying to inform those that may not be aware of this information.

So, the obvious question is: Just what is the best way to keep valuables safe?  Safes are probably better, but far from fool-proof.  In addition to professional safecrackers, a new device has been created to systematically and quickly "auto dial" combination locks. Thus, even a non-pro with this device could open a safe. Finally, I've personally been told of safes being hauled out by burglars in their entirety.

Now, I'm not a security expert, but it makes sense to me to diversify your storage of valuables. One possibility would be the old-fashioned "bury it in the backyard" approach at a place that you let your heirs know about or is kept with an attorney you trust. It should also be away from where your gardener spends the bulk of his time, if you have one.  Another approach would involve employing a VERY creative place in which to hide vauables at home. Those should be diversified as well.  Valuables could go in hollowed out books and then hidden in some completely innocuous place, but not your main bookshelf.  Keeping things under the mattress or a chest of drawers, on the other hand, is way too obvious and among the first places a burglar would look.

Another idea I had was to put your vauables in a "zip-lock" bag inside something like a carton of milk or juice in the refrigerator.  The carton could then be filled with the original fluid and made to seem full.

But again, I want to caution you that I'm not trained in safety and it might pay to consult someone like a burglary detective that knows about these things.  So, other than diversification, these suggestions may have flaws. 

As always, I greatly appreciate your support and thoughts, especially if you have interesting ideas regarding protecting valuables.  I've researched the topic at length and found a myriad of suggestions, but some are clearly less then bullet-proof like safes.  I hope you like these continuing essays, find them useful and keep on reading as our library grows.

Marko's Take

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