Haven't Checked Your Safe Deposit Box In 3 Years? California May Have Seized Your Stuff

There’s a mess going on in the state of California. The state is accused of being overly proactive in seizing private assets that have been “abandoned” and selling them at auction. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Years ago, Carla Ruff stored her grandmother’s jewelry and a file of personal documents in a safe-deposit box at her bank in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, thinking they would always be there when she wanted them.

Not so. Without giving her notice or acting on evidence that she’d forgotten about her cache, the bank’s staff, under the auspice of the state, determined the contents of her box to be unclaimed property.

In July 1997, bank records show, the pearl necklace and diamond-encrusted pin, real estate and insurance documents as well as her birth certificate were all removed. The paperwork was shredded and thrown away. Her jewelry was auctioned off on eBay — for a fraction of its $80,000 value.

Ruff said she didn’t know what had happened until January 2006, when an illness in the family sent her to the Bank of America branch looking for the deed to her house. Weeks later, the bank manager told Ruff that her property had been seized by the state under a law that requires the government to take control of lost or abandoned assets.

The article has several of these stories. California’s asset seizure program is a cash cow for the state, generating $400 million annually from the sale of its citizen’s personal property. Law suits against the state are generally unsuccessful, because an immunity clause is written into the law.

Do you think you might have stuff in peril in California? The collection program has been put on hold by a federal court. You can recover frozen assets that the state might be holding by clicking here. Property is considered abandoned if there’s been no contact between the holding institution and the property owner, but in the case of Carla Ruff, that wasn’t the case. She was an account holder in good standing with the Bank of America branch that turned her property over to the state. Other states also have abandoned property programs. Check to see if yours does. You might find that you are owed some money.

Anguished tales of property taken by state [SF Chronicle]
(Photo: Demedulce)

Comments

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  1. Falconfire says:

    Ah yes, yet another example of how evil our state and federal government is…. lets create a law thats sole purpose is to make the state money and royally fuck over every citizen in the state since we are too lazy to track down next of kin.

  2. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Wow, that is just pure evil. Yet another reason to not do business with BoA. Or to live in California.

  3. timmus says:

    Uhhhhh….. were the safe deposit boxes paid for? I’m not getting any info on that from the story. If the boxes weren’t paid up, then I’d say yeah, wait 3 years and then sell off the items. The bank isn’t a time capsule service.

    And WTF — someone held onto a cashiers check for 13 years and thought it would be redeemable?

    If the bank was getting rid of items out of PAID deposit boxes, that’s one thing, but come on.

  4. Rahnee says:

    I had a box in Georgia once. After a few years of paying the high rental rate I decided to buy a home fire proof safe. My important stuff is secure and the bank get less of my money in the process.

  5. Kos says:

    Hey Ben, didn’t you post another BOA safety deposit box story about a month ago?

  6. tcp100 says:

    Yet again, Consumerist brings you news, fresh from the Middle Ages.

    This is an old, old concept known as Escheat, and it’s present in just about every state, and civilized government for that matter. It has nothing to do with BoA, and every state has an unclaimed property division.

    The purpose of such laws are not to be “evil” and they weren’t created as a way to make “the government” (who are these people that everyone keeps talking about, this mysterious “government” that clearly doesn’t have bank accounts and is immune to all law?) money.

    Consumerist, instead of again aimlessly placing blame and scratching only the surface of the story, please educate your readers about the ancient concept of Escheat:

    [en.wikipedia.org]

  7. tcp100 says:

    For more of your reading pleasure:

    State escheat laws as applied to gift cards (pdf):
    [www.restaurant.org]

    Letter from the Comptroller of the Currency (Federal Government) regarding bank escheat powers, specifically Californnia (pdf):
    [www.occ.treas.gov]

    California Bureau of Unclaimed Property:
    [www.sco.ca.gov]

  8. zibby says:

    It ain’t the overall concept that problematic, it’s the way California implements it.

  9. retired_poppi says:

    At my credit union, I rent my safe deposit box on a yearly basis. I understand that if I do not pay the rent, eventually I will lose the contents of the box. I expect that there was a similar rental agreement at the Bank of America. Perhaps someone who uses Bank of America will enlighten us about safe deposit box rental policy.

  10. retired_poppi says:

    At my credit union, I rent a safe deposit box on a yearly basis. I understand that if I do not pay the rent, eventually I will lose the contents of the box. I expect that Bank of America has a similar rental policy. Perhaps someone who uses Bank of America will enlighten us about their safe deposit box rental policy.

  11. zibby says:

    Eh, I hit done before I meant to. Anyway, I was going to say that CA isn’t the only state to move the limit up to three years. What’s the motivation there? Seems like there would be a lot more unclaimed property to police if you reduce the requirements, therefore creating all sorts of extra bureaucratic difficulties…of course, if your motivation is to turn the goodies into your own tasty money, than reduced requirements could be quite a good thing indeed…

  12. Myron says:

    Hey Consumerist. You’ve recently started making us click through the post to get the link to the referenced article. You either don’t realize how annoying this is or its a cynical attempt at more page views that shows contempt for your readership. Either way I ask that you reconsider this new style of yours. As much as I enjoy your site, I don’t like being insulted every time I visit it.

  13. ThomFabian says:

    Other than the obvious (and admittedly cynical) motivation of profit, what is the reasoning behind the automatic forfeiture of property when you are paying to have it stored? (I assume that the safety deposit box must’ve been paid for for this to be an issue).

  14. mopar_man says:

    @Jaysyn:

    I was thinking the very same thing.

  15. tcp100 says:

    @zibby: I don’t buy the conspiracy theories that this is just a revenue generator, but if anything, in more populous states, it may be an issue of banks being overwhelmed with abandoned property. Idle bank accounts and untouched safe deposit boxes cost banks money, and they probably moved to shorten the time period.

    I guess you’re saying that this in turn would cause more work for the government; maybe so, but that’s the government’s job, really – to preside over such matters as an impartial arbiter (but that doesn’t always work, of course.)

    I imagine before any such requirements were reduced, a study was taken and probably put up for public or legislative referendum.. Probably would have to look up the genesis of this chnage.. but it’s a concept anyone dealing with banks should be aware of, and get details on before they decide to store something with a 3rd party trustee for a period of time.

    I’m not saying California’s law isn’t flawed or unfair, I’m just saying that there are lots of concepts out there that Joe Consumer is pretty much idiot clueless on. I think the Consumerist would be well placed to put up a little schoolin’ on such stuff, as I’d think a more educated consumer is a smarter consumer.

    The nice thing about dealing with government, however, is that you have redress, whereas BoA can simply tell you to go pound sand or sue. Try writing your local / state legislative representative (state assembly, not Congress) sometime. You’d be surprised how responsive they are to matters like this.

  16. zaka says:

    TCP100: It’s great that you gave us a link to a wikipedia article about a feudal common law. Unfortunately, this is America and we shouldn’t have to worry about the king stealing our possessions on the basis of Escheat.

    As Joseph Story explained nearly 200 years ago, American Law, while originally based on English Common Law, must continue to evolve. It doesn’t seem right to me for possessions to be seized from a safe deposit box and sold when the owner is alive and well. That doesn’t fly under Escheat, either.

  17. tcp100 says:

    What I can’t stand, however, is when the media portrays people such as this as “victims”:

    “Madonna Suever is another of Palmer’s clients who has filed suit. Suever’s mother received a cashier’s check for nearly $13,000 as part of an inheritance from her brother in 1986. But she never cashed the check, instead hanging onto it for more than 10 years.”

    That is not the story of a victim. That is the story of an idiot. Harsh, but real. There’s a line, and I understand the paper’s using tragedy to pull at heartstrings – which I think is rather unethical journalism. To think a check is still valid after a decade and then complain when it’s not is just moronic.

  18. Kornkob says:

    This isn’t just any old check but a cashier’s check. The issuing bank is committing to payout on that check when they cut it. I do not believe that the UCC puts any expiration on obligation to pay that a bank takes on when issuing such a check. One thing I do know is that the UCC specifically states that no interest is due to the holder of the check– it is a negotiable instrument for the amount stated and naught else.

    Thus— yeah– these people may have been a little stupid holding onto that check but they were entitled to that money.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    The article didn’t mention if the box was current (being paid). This would be a HUGE factor, I think. So would whether the contact info was current as well.

    No to these two, after three years? Not as sympathetic.

    Follow-up to the article needed? Consumerist: contact reporter and see?

  20. Xkeeper says:

    If the safe deposit boxes are being paid for, then by all means never touch the stuff inside or notify the people.

    If they’re not, hell, throw ‘em out.

  21. tcp100 says:

    @Xkeeper: If you look at the actual law, it says banks can take custody if there has been “no contact” after 3 years.

    I believe (and this may be up to a judge) regular payments would count as “contact”. If she prepaid for a number of years, and then the law changed, I think she’d have a case, but IANAL.

  22. tcp100 says:

    @Kornkob: True, I don’t mean that it would expire after a year or something, like a personal check.. However, my guess would be that the issuing bank may not have even existed after 10 years (none of the banks I used in the 80s or 90s are still the same bank today)..

    I understand the UCC (and different codes and regulations also apply in this story, such as the UCC, or securities law for the guy who lost his stock – I think that guy has a DEFINITE case with the SEC) provides certain terms on cashiers checks way above and beyond other checks — but why in the world wouldn’t someone deposit a check after 10 years??? I see nothing at all wrong with the state assuming an uncashed check is abandoned after a decade, cashiers check or not.

    Tangible property in a safe deposit box is another matter, and three years is rather short, IMHO – however again, I’m just underscoring — keep active with your assets!

    I have an old credit union account I never touch; I drop $20 in it a year just to keep activity and stay a member of the CU.

  23. chalicechick says:

    If these folks aren’t paying for their safe deposit boxes, that does make me less sympathetic. But even public storage units give you a call when you get behind on your payments. It seems odd that the bank wouldn’t even write Ms. Ruff a letter before getting rid of her stuff.

  24. zibby says:

    @tcp100: I’m well aware of this stuff, and yeah, it needs to be in place with reasonable forfeiture time periods, etc. Three years is just too short – if you have an account with, say, some 10 year paper that you want to hold to maturity, what should be an autopilot type of deal becomes something you need to be a little paranoid about, which is annoying. Regarding conspiracy theories, well, they come right out and admit in the article that the property seized is a welcome revenue stream…I don’t think it’s so crazy to imagine state legislatures figuring that if some “found” money is good, even more would be better.

  25. RandomHookup says:

    The cashier’s check is especially stupid since even a 2% rate of return would have paid an extra $2800 over 10 years.

  26. SBR249 says:

    ouch, birth certificate, house deeds, insurance, personal documents? Why in the world would you ever put those things in a safe deposit box? On the other hand, perhaps this can be one of those few cases where a lawsuit would be successful, since the victim had good standing with BoA?

  27. Asherah says:

    @SBR249: You would place said documents in a SD box because that is the purpose of the box. Would you like the deed to your house go up in flames or soaked in a flood?

    And yes, BofA does issue multiple notices when you are about to forfeit your box for non-payment.

  28. tcp100 says:

    @zibby: Ok, I guess what I mean is that to say that the gov’t planned this as an insidious tactic to screw the public is a bit in tinfoil hat territory. It may be more along the lines of “Hey, who are we to complain” – I guess I understand that. I just have a bit of an issue lately with the fact that people don’t educate themselves on matters such as finance, credit, etc. Stuff like this SHOULD be taught in school.

    I agree that long term obligations, such as CDs, Bonds, Annuities, etc, should be untouchable for the length of the term + some reasonable redemption period. However, there are certain instruments that aren’t intended to be latent – and a cashier’s check is one of them.

    I would not be surprised however if it’s found that California broke securities laws or regulations by seizing stock without certain due process regarding the holder of record on that stock. I think they definitely should be held liable for lost appreciation on that.

    The immunity clause the state gives itself is a problem; that needs to be fought through elected representatives. In part, however, I think this is a failure of the press. The press never makes a big deal when these laws are up for vote, but makes a big stink once the law is passed and the unwitting public is suddenly a “poor innocent victim”. (See: the VA surcharge law, which was co-sponsored by my state delegate. [I wrote him to oppose.] This was announced, debated, and voted – but the Washington Post only picks it up once the bill is a done deal. Lousy journalism.)

    It is the job of a responsible citizen to stay educated as to the law concerning their affairs. It is the job of the press to provide pertinent information to the citizenry. When you have a shitty law passed, you can’t only blame the state. This is why this story bugs me a bit.

  29. lestat730 says:

    It’s disgusting how greedy the government is sometimes. This is a law that lets them legally steal peoples belongings and then pawn them for pure profit (and they know the contents will probably be worth a lot since thats what these lock box’s are usually for)

    Every law suit against the state for doing this should be honored unless the state made it absolutely clear to the customer how this policy worked before they opened their box (which apparently is avoided so they can screw you over, as if we didn’t pay enough tax’s already.)

    Regardless of the law, there should be at least some effort made towards contacting the owner.

  30. Skeptic says:

    The purpose of such laws are not to be “evil” and they weren’t created as a way to make “the government” (who are these people that everyone keeps talking about, this mysterious “government” that clearly doesn’t have bank accounts and is immune to all law?) money.

    Your faith in government is heartwarming, but the actual lawsuits contend that the CA government is using escheatment as an unlawful source of income and abrogating the state’s proper custodial duty to care for the funds.

    State law requires that the state try and locate and contact individuals who’s funds are going to be, or already have been, seized. The state has admitted deliberately violating this aspect of the law, instead deliberately placing vague “you may have money” ads in a few newspapers on the days of the year they are least likely to be read. Again, that was a deliberate action, the state claiming that they did so because they didn’t have enough people to deal with inquiries if they placed ads on a normal day.

    Additionally, the state has been aggressively pursuing funds that it isn’t even legally entitled to. An Englishman had printed stock certificates in his possession in England, meanwhile the state had duplicate certificates made up without contacting him and sold them!!! Now they say they are immune to lawsuit, even though they admit to deliberately violating the state law. Un-frigging believable. If that ain’t evil, it is pretty darn close.

    Read the suit for more horrifying, greedy details:

    [www.ca9.uscourts.gov]

  31. FredTheCat says:

    Curiously, my daughter’s BofA savings account was almost “claimed” by California recently.

    A number of months ago we opened her a savings account with a hundred bucks or so in there just earning what BofA jokingly calls “interest”. Then a few weeks ago she starts getting letters from BofA stating that they believe it’s unclaimed property and she has to fill out a form to verify she’s still aware of it. I had her close the account and set her up with ING where she not only gets to keep her savings but actually earn reasonable interest.

    What’s the point of a savings account that you can’t just leave untouched? BofA seems awful eager to chase away customers. I’ll be moving both my business and personal checking out of their hands in the next few months.

  32. tcp100 says:

    @Skeptic: The power of a corrupt few to corrupt a whole system is great, and I think this is what we’re seeing here. I believe that this will be “corrected”, as happens in government.

    What I’m saying is that California’s government as a whole probably did not collude to come up with a scheme to bilk constituents. What probably happened amounted to a “perfect storm” enabling ease of abuse of this law, and as humans are wont to, some clever policymaker somewhere took advantage of it to help meet his budgets.

    Look, I understand the distrust of government, and I think it is healthy and actually patriotic. However, the Internets seem to have an overwhelming lean towards belief in an evil Illuminati that are trying to steal your nickels. In reality, it’s not that simple, and such a concept illegitimizes a site like the Consumerist.

    I just want to make sure that a line can be drawn between officials (who, by the way, are pressured to meet numbers and pay for public services by the public) who take advantage of a crappy law that should be repealed, versus the folks who think water fluoridation is a mind control experiment.

    Is the government of California evil? Maybe, currently, in parts. But that ain’t nobody’s fault but the People of California. Stop paying attention to Celebutantes going to jail for DUI, and maybe demand local papers start a column about “legislature and how it will affect you”. Have your teachers educate kids about personal finance, not just how to ace a standardized test so you can brag. Hell, make sure your teachers know the difference between a tax and a fee, or APY and APR, or numerous other things before they can teach. Teach kids that escheatment periods and interest are both properties of a bank account.

    The people are woefully misinformed, through both their own faults and lack of coverage, of issues concerning property, personal finance, taxes, and the government. This is a sad state of affairs, and a place where sites like this could do some good.

  33. tcp100 says:

    @FredTheCat: It’s not necessarily BoA. Many state laws require banks to contact consumers after a period of perceived dormancy. A “number of months” should not trigger that, though – some date was probably wrong somewhere.

  34. Bryan Price says:

    It’s been a few years since I was on the government side of unclaimed funds. OK. According to Ohio laws, (comment deleted) if you haven’t paid for your box for three years, the lock gets drilled and the contents get taken by the state. It was sometime in the ’90s (when I was working) that the state was allowed to sell what they found in the box. Which was done primarily for the stock certificates that they had found. And then another law that got passed as I was leaving required them to sell everything.

    That division was pretty much already Y2K compliant because they had to deal with things like birth dates and account dates that were in the 19th century. I digress.

    This is interesting because it looks like this has already hit the fan.

    And yes, you are supposed to get what I call the “drop dead” letter stating that if you don’t do something, your funds will go to the state (and I have gotten those letters).

    And yes, you may have an active account, but if you haven’t paid your safe-deposit box rent… Then again, if you never received a bill for the box rent…

  35. Jiminy Christmas says:

    @Myron: You can’t beat the price though, can you?

  36. TechnoDestructo says:

    @tcp100:

    Did you read the article? This isn’t about the CONCEPT of seizing abandoned assets being wrong. It’s about the either grossly incompetent or willfully ignorant application of that concept. Before you start waving your legal e-penis around make sure you know exactly what you’re waving it at.

    “Robin Johansen, a private attorney representing the state in the Palmer litigation, said the allegations made by Palmer’s clients have yet to be tried in court. “To portray these individual stories — even if they are accurate — as representative of the entire system, I think is a colossal mistake,” she said. “What we have is a system similar to every other state. To simply assert without proof that you never received notice — that needs to be tested.””

    To simply assert without proof that there is no easter bunny…that needs to be tested.

    No, if you provided notice, you should have some proof of that. You can’t prove that you never received something. You can’t prove that something does not exist.

    I believe this is her email address.
    johansen@rjp.com

  37. Asherah says:

    @Bryan Price: You’d be surprised how many customers move without notifying banks etc. of the forwarding address or activating mail forwarding via the USPS. There are many consumers who neglect to do the simplest of things that can easily facilitate communications with those they choose to do business with. Just noting this simple fact about why many folks don’t receive important notices, its always better to double check address/phone changes at least a few times with everyone!

  38. Ben Popken says:

    Madderhatter’s wife writes:

    “I actually work for an Unclaimed Property program, and can tell you many of the assumptions commented here are way off base. You’re not alone. Our customer service takes calls all day long from those who’ve made erroneous assumptions about our program.

    In our State, contents of a Safe Deposit Box are considered abandoned after three years of non-payment on the box rental. At that point in time, the company/bank is required by our State to attempt contact with the customer (this is called ‘due diligence’, as one person commented they received a due diligence letter from their bank), however unfortunately most of the time the customer cannot be contacted as they have moved or passed away (which is often the cause of the abandonment in the first place).

    The account is then escheated to the State, which in our case we again attempt contact with the customer, only we utilize a national database in an attempt to find a more current address. Yes, some States still rely on regional newspaper ads, which was the case for us before we obtained access to this database. Unclaimed Property programs receive thousands upon thousands of reports from companies nationwide every year, each report containing hundreds if not thousands of individual owner accounts. In most cases, there simply isn’t the manpower or resources to track down each and every owner on every report, but we do try our best.

    The vault we keep Safe Deposit Box contents in is actually very small and the vault staff few… therefore, we run auctions twice a year to sell off the contents, and post the funds from the auctions in individual Unclaimed Property accounts where it will be held IN THE NAME OF THE ORIGINAL OWNER until the original owner (or his/her heirs) claims it.

    The State only acts as GUARDIAN of the funds, and never claims OWNERSHIP of the funds.

    If California is truly operating in an unethical way such as what has been suggested here, then yes, they should pay restitution. The State’s job in this capacity is to protect the funds owed to our citizens. In the case of other bank accounts, checks, and funds, unclaimed property laws keep the company from continually charging fees on the account until there is nothing left. In the case of Safe Deposit Boxes, sure, we have to sell the contents but we keep the bank from mishandling the account (without Unclaimed Property laws, they could easily auction off the contents and keep the proceeds themselves). Without the State laws in place to make sure the companies don’t gobble up your money, they would find a way to do just that, rest assured… and your worries would not be about the State “taking” and holding your money for you to claim, it would be about the company absorbing it with no way for you to get it back.

    It doesn’t matter what company you move your account to… they all must abide by those laws. Keep your accounts current with activity at least once a year, and make sure to update addresses when you move!! In the case of the individual who received the due diligence letter, they were following their State laws by sending you that information… imagine how upset you would be if they closed your account and sent it without offering you the chance to renew your account! So, bravo for reading and understanding the correspondence that was provided to you by your bank.

    It is true that Unclaimed Property can be more difficult to claim back from the State than it would have been from the original company that sent it to the State, if for no other reason than State offices are constantly inundated with thousands of claims and phone calls on those thousands of accounts we receive every year… so it can take a while to get your money back. Also understand that the company may not have provided all the necessary information we needed to identify the owner by (social security number, etc), so you may be asked to provide some very specific documentation to prove the money is yours… and claimants often find themselves arguing that what we ask for is “impossible”, but our hands are tied as we must ensure that we only release the funds to the actual person entitled to it… you would be amazed at how many people can share the exact same name so no, name match is not enough. The lesson is that one must always mind his/her P’s and Q’s regarding his/her finances. If people fail to do so, they should be happy that the State prevents the companies from absorbing the property!”

  39. specialed5000 says:

    I know that here in West Virginia, local newspapers and TV stations occasionally run stories about the state’s unclaimed property program, and the state treasurer’s office maintains an online searchable database of unclaimed property, or if you write to them they will search for you for free. Cash is kept essentially forever and never goes into the state’s treasury. I’m not sure what they do with property from safe deposit boxes, probably sell it after a time and then keep the cash indefinitely.

  40. sooz123 says:

    This is “Madderhatter’s wife” again.

    TCP100, you posted as I was composing my above novel ;-).

    The customer themselves must assume a large part of the responsibility in keeping track of his/her own finances. It isn’t a bank’s fault if the customer moves and fails to provide current contact information.

    I suppose the largest misconception I hear a lot is that folks tend to think that finding someone you do not personally know after they move is an easy task. First, you have to find someone that *might* be the same person, and then verify that it is in fact the *same* person. Then, try doing that several thousand times every year. I can’t imagine that it’s very easy for a company that doesn’t have access to the resources we have as a government office to relocate and positively identify even one, when given our resources we still can’t locate a decent percentage of them. They’re not private investigators after all, and again by in large you’ll find an amazingly few handling a very large volume. I’m sure a large percentage of their due diligence letters never do get received for those reasons.

    I can tell you that even if the individual receives the due diligence letter, they may not even read it. Some people get so confused they return the letter to us with a personal check for the exact amount they are due, before their funds are even due to be escheated… yes, they think it’s a bill because they have not properly read the letter.

    I suppose it is always going to be an issue that is easy for those unfamiliar with the internal workings of it to jump up and say it is yet another example of ‘government ripping people off’. As a matter of fact, there are ways in which the program is beneficial to the general public that I have not even mentioned yet. Personally though, I do have little sympathy for those who either neglect or make incorrect assumptions about their financial accounts without confirming, and then want to whoop and holler about it 10 years later.

    What kills me about the lady with the cashiers check is that she a) thought a bank would cash a 10 year old check for $13,000 that likely had a one year expiration date printed on it, and b) screamed about not gaining interest when even if she could’ve cashed it, it sure wasn’t gaining interest in her desk drawer! Come on, now…

  41. ceo says:

    Read the article, folks.

    This lady HAD an ACTIVE bank account with BOA.

    She STILL received MONTHLY bank statements in the mail and was a *current* customer.

    They had her deed, her address, etc. yet never notified her in this situation.

    As for the 13 year cashiers check, um,… wow.

  42. ceo says:

    “It isn’t a bank’s fault if the customer moves and fails to provide current contact information.”

    Ah, true, BUT this lady HAD given the bank her address. They’d been mailing her monthly checking account statements to her HOME ADDRESS on an active account in good standing. For less than 40 cents worth of a stamp, they could have sent her a letter about the box— along with her monthly statements.

  43. sooz123 says:

    The accounts may have never been internally associated with one another and could have had different addresses listed depending upon when she opened them. This article doesn’t give enough information about the chain of events at the bank that lead to the escheatment for us to even know if the institutions followed the law… they didn’t if what they claim really happened, but yet here the government is being blamed for their wrongdoing. However, this lady waited 9 YEARS after the escheatment to go looking for her safe deposit box, during which she could not have been paying box rental as the bank would’ve refused the payment because there was no box, and yet she thought it would still be there (according to law they held it for 3 yrs after payment stopped, so 12 yrs total in abandonment). Would she even remember having received a due diligence letter after 9 years? As I said before, people need to mind their financial P’s and Q’s, and own their responsibility in the matter. It is only after they haven’t that this even becomes an issue.

    A monster conglomerate such as BoA has millions of customer accounts of all types, so making the connection between two separate accounts, although they may be owned by the same individual, can often be far more difficult than it would seem on the surface. I agree that BoA likely doesn’t do enough to locate the owners prior to escheating accounts, and I certainly don’t defend them individually. The bank, as do a lot of other corporations, only meets the bare minimum requirement as established by the State law in making a last effort at contact before escheatment. Unfortunately, despite how obviously beneficial the change is to the general public, when you introduce a bill to get those requirements beefed up, there’s a line of sharks waiting to rip it apart before it gets passed because companies don’t want to pay for a research department. On the flipside of that, the article mentions overhauling the law to include more proactive notifications on the part of the government office… which is something my State has already done, but still we catch the flack for the company not notifying them first.

    Also, some people are just impossible to find if you don’t know them personally, even with government access to that national database. As an exercise to understand how complicated it can be, simply google the lady’s name and see how many listings come up… then try, without personal knowledge of her, to positively identify how many of them refer to the same person… or do any of them?

    Really, how far should companies and government agencies be expected to go to track someone down that hasn’t kept up with their account after so many years? It really bites my cookies that not one of those people in that article is willing to admit fault for not making sure their account was kept up to date, and most if not all of them have several years of negligence to account for. It’s not as if they pulled the rug out from under them a year or two after the account was opened.

  44. MrEvil says:

    Moral of the story? Don’t use a bank safe deposit box. Either keep a fire safe in your house or get a box at a private vault. I keep all my vehicle titles and property deeds in a private vault. I also keep a thumb drive in there with digital copies. It’s very discrete and the rent’s cheap as dirt. The problem is, finding one like mine that is reputable.

  45. a_m_m_b says:

    @Mr3vil: silly question but where would one find a reputable private vault?