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Safe Deposit Boxes Aren’t Safe

Philip Poniz needed a well-protected place to stash his collection of rare watches. He had been gathering unusual pieces since he was a teenager and he became an internationally known expert in the history and restoration of high-end timepieces.

At first, he kept his personal collection in his house, but he wanted something more secure. The vault at his neighborhood bank seemed ideal. In 1983, he arranged with his bank to rent a safe deposit box. In the vault were hundreds of stacked metal boxes, each protected by two keys. The bank kept one; the customer held the other. Both were required to open a box.

Then, in April of 2017, he lifted the thin metal lid of his box. His box was empty. “I thought my heart would fail,” Mr. Poniz said. “I was devastated,” he said. “I never felt like that in my life before. I had never known that one can have a feeling like that.”

There are an estimated 25 million safe deposit boxes in America, and there are no federal laws governing the boxes. No rules require banks to compensate customers if their property is stolen or destroyed. Every year, a few hundred customers report that valuable items—diamonds, jewelry, rare coins, stacks of cash—have disappeared from their safe deposit boxes.

Mr. Poniz began piecing together what had happened: His bank had evicted another customer for not keeping up with payments, but bank employees had mistakenly removed Mr. Poniz’s box instead. He estimated that the value of his loss was more than $10 million. That would make it one of the largest safe-deposit-box losses in American history.

“My impression about safe deposit boxes was that it was like you were putting things in Fort Knox,” he said. “Nothing could happen to it.” He doesn’t think that anymore.

Possible Preaching Angle: Assurance; Security; Trusting God – No bank can guarantee the safety of our possessions. Physicians cannot guarantee the length of our lives. Insurance companies cannot promise the safety of our homes in natural disasters. But our eternal Father unfailingly guarantees the protection of our eternal souls and our rewards in heaven.

Source: Stacy Cowley, “Safe Deposit Boxes Aren’t Safe,” The New York Times (7-19-19)

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