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Safe deposit boxes help protect your keepsakes from damage. A fire or flood at home doesn't have to mean valuable documents, cash, jewels and photos are lost. Take care when retrieving your safe deposit box by visiting the post office during daytime hours, and bring someone who makes you feel safe in case you are leaving the premises with something you treasure. Don't let your safe deposit box leave your sight; post office personnel are typically trustworthy, but it's better not to take any chances.
Gather everything you need to identify yourself. A renter of a safe deposit box is given a key to open the box; have your key handy. Also bring a picture identification of yourself, in case you misplace the key, or in case both the key and the ID are needed to access your box. Appropriate identification includes a state ID or driver's license or a passport. If you opened your box jointly with someone else, bring that person with you.
Handle your business in plain sight. Keep your eyes on the postman who gives you access to the room where your safe deposit box is kept. Do not give anyone your key, unless you are with that person and your key at all times. If someone is retrieving the box for you, insist it is kept in plain view. If you are not permanently removing the contents of your safe deposit box, insist the box is kept in your sight as it is returned as well. If you are removing the contents permanently, handle them securely as you leave the post office.
Keep records. As you go in and out of your safe deposit box, list the contents from each visit, or take a picture each time you close the box. Compare your lists and pictures with the actual contents of the box each time you visit; this way you have evidence in case anything goes missing.
Protect yourself. When you get the contents of your safe deposit box (if you are not removing them permanently), take precaution against acts of nature. Safe deposit boxes are not impervious to fire, tornado, hurricanes or floods. Keep only copies, not the originals, of important documents in your safe deposit box. This includes your will and insurance papers, the titles to your house and car, birth certificates, stock and bond certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees. Keep all of your documents in plastic, sealed, airtight zip-lock bags, and put your name on everything.
- Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images