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Safety Deposit key

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I used to have a safety deposit box years ago. The key was large and heavy. I would be surprised if it could be legally duplicated, like at a key making shop. Does anyone here work at a bank or have first-hand knowledge if they can be duplicated? TIA.      :chainsaw
#1 - May 18, 2019, 08:57 AM

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I don't work for a bank.

I do know that different states/provinces have slightly different laws, but generally duplicating a bank key is not illegal. It probably violates your agreement with the bank though.

Although regular key cutting services may not keep the style of key, locksmiths can duplicate the key legally if the key itself isn't copyrighted. There are even online services (http://diebolddirect.com/safetydepositboxkeyduplicationservice.aspx won't deal with individuals, only financial institutions, but others don't have the same restrictions.)
#2 - May 18, 2019, 06:45 PM

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This doesn't address the duplication issue, but: the key to our safe deposit box is small and flat. It fits in a 2x3 inch cardboard envelope that closes with a snap,  so the description of a key would vary depending on the time period of your novel.

Also, not to throw a spanner into your plot, but even if somebody had the key and it's a novel set in the past 50 years or so, they'd still have to fill out a form to get access to the safe deposit box area of the bank, and if their signature didn't match the signature on file, they wouldn't get access. Unless they were packing heat, of course... or the bank is Gringotts...or [insert other handy plot device].
#3 - May 18, 2019, 07:51 PM

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My key is like Anne's. I don't remember my mother's key being that big either. I do remember her going down to the vault.

I need my key and a key from the bank for the box to be opened. I never touch their copy. Without both keys, you can't get to the box. You also have to open the big walk-in safe that is a bank vault. The bank employee has that key and the keys for each box.
#4 - May 18, 2019, 08:32 PM
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Unless they were packing heat, of course... or the bank is Gringotts...or [insert other handy plot device].      :dr

Thanks, everyone.  This is both helpful and disturbing to the plot. Never the less, I want in that vault!
#5 - May 19, 2019, 01:24 AM

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Sorry to throw MORE disturbance on the plot but... my safety deposit box key is much longer then a normal key but thin and light. Just a few months back I couldn't find either copy, after 30 some yrs of renting a box at my bank. So had to pay for a locksmith to come and drill out the lock, replace it with a whole new tumbler system and key because the banks, though the banks hold the key to get in the vault,  can not retain a copy of your boxes key.
#6 - May 19, 2019, 04:42 AM
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I don't imagine it would be legal for a locksmith shop to make a copy of a safety deposit box key. Only the bank was able to request the locksmith come in for mine and they use only 1 company to service all their banks in my City (Bank is TD)
#7 - May 19, 2019, 04:47 AM
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Hey, it's doable, just complicated. If you can get fake IDs and even fake passports (not that I have any experience with that sort of thing, but people are always managing it in the movies) there probably are rogue locksmiths out there, or a friend of a friend of somebody's cousin's mechanic who (for a price and the potential for blackmailing you after) who'd do it. But then there's still the signature issue, and a bank employee being suspicious because something just seems off...

You could always ask at your bank, after assuring them you're doing this for "research." I'd go with the branch manager, though, rather than a random teller (who just might flag you as a Highly Suspicious Character). I've also heard that the police are helpful with things like this, so if you happen to know an officer, or contact your department's Community Services officer. I know an author who contacted the CIA for info and found them helpful, although knowing that author, she probably already was on their radar  *waves to You Know Who You Are*
#8 - May 19, 2019, 06:51 AM

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Our oldest daughter is our Family Trust trustee, and she has a key to our box. My husband and I signed papers and she appeared with proof of identity and the bank added her signature to our card. So, I was thinking for your story, whoever wants to get into the box could put pressure on the box owner to have their name added. Then they could use their own ID and signature. If they just want to get into the vault (and not a box), all they have to do reserve a box in their own name.

Of course, this might not fit with your plot. Good luck.  :star2
#9 - May 19, 2019, 08:17 AM

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Wow! The imagination and creativity here are mind-boggling. If any of you decide to go "the other way," so to speak, you have a great future!     :goodluck

Seriously though this info is helpful. It's a secret box, so getting her name on it is out of the question. And it's a small town with only two banks and her father is prominent and so she would be recognized immediately. But she does need to get in there. Takes two keys? Right? If she got in the vault, found the right box? Are all the keys on a master ring? She could forge his name.  You are all my    :superwoman
#10 - May 19, 2019, 08:29 AM

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I know an author who contacted the CIA for info and found them helpful, although knowing that author, she probably already was on their radar  *waves to You Know Who You Are*
Waves back.  :kiss

I asked all about this when one of our kid's class took a tour of a bank in third grade. It was just general background info--I didn't have a plot in mind, but while touring a bank vault, why not? I don't remember all the specifics, except the general impression that it would be very, very difficult to get into someone's vault. You not only have to have your key, the bank has theirs, too. You sign a card, sit in a place where you're on security camera for quite a while, sign a card with your name and when you're accessing it.  I think this bank had two employees look you over, so it wouldn't just be one employee to work with you. (I don't know that that's standard.) The bank checks it against their signature card. Then the bank employee goes with you to release the box from the wall (at which point it's unlocked). They help you carry it to a table, if you need help, and then leave you alone to look through the contents.

My general principle is to check everything that I can. When I had a character taken to the ER of a specific hospital, I called them and asked what color their ER floor was. If they're eating at a specific restaurant, I check the restaurant's menu for the appropriate month to make sure they really have cherry pie in January. You still make mistakes, and they're still embarrassing.

For a plot point--especially something that sounds important--I'd make an appointment with your local bank and ask them to walk you through it. Lots of people are eager to share their knowledge--it's a fun change of pace for most folks.
 :goodluck

ETA: Just noticed your character is female and the box owner is male? That seems like an enormous impediment. Any chance the box could be in the man's wife/mother/daughter's name? But definitely ask the bank about that. Their security is designed to deter professional criminals--they won't be casual about it.
#11 - May 19, 2019, 10:50 AM
« Last Edit: May 19, 2019, 10:54 AM by dewsanddamps »
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Just noticed your character is female and the box owner is male? That seems like an enormous impediment.
Thanks, dewsanddamps.  I agree I need a safety deposit box anyway.  But why is this an issue? It is the father and daughter.
#12 - May 19, 2019, 11:47 AM

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Just noticed your character is female and the box owner is male? That seems like an enormous impediment.
  But why is this an issue? It is the father and daughter.

If the daughter is already signed up for the box, then there's no problem. They check her identity and signature and she's in IF she has the key.  I was under the impression she wasn't on the signature cards so was not able to get into the safety deposit boxes. If not having a copy of the key is the only problem, then, yes, you can solve the problem by getting the key copied. Or lifting her father 's key without his knowing.

#13 - May 19, 2019, 11:58 AM
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Hair, you can't get into someone's box because you're related. Family members keep secrets, and steal from each other, all the time. She can get in if it's her box, period.

So if my husband has a safe deposit box in only his name, I can't get in--even with the key--without a death certificate. I think you still need a copy of the will, maybe a court afadavit.  I can't remember all the deets, but it's daunting. Some people keep a few million in gems in their boxes--no bank wants to be liable for that. You really should run this past a bank, though.
#14 - May 19, 2019, 12:20 PM
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Hair, you can't get into someone's box because you're related. Family members keep secrets, and steal from each other, all the time. She can get in if it's her box, period.

I understand that. The box is a secret she has just had revealed to her. She needs to get into it. All she has is the key. At this point, she is bringing in a male friend to forge the signature. I think that will work.
#15 - May 19, 2019, 12:29 PM

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This site has a lot of junk advertising: https://www.dinarrecaps.com/our-blog/safe-deposit-box-laws-rulesregulations-tipswarnings
Scroll down to 'Open Someone's Safe Deposit Box'

But it also has some info that may be helpful to you -- although I'm not sure about accuracy.
#16 - May 19, 2019, 04:37 PM

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Unless she is a minor, the friend will have to go in alone.  You aren't allowed in with the boxes unless you are too young to be left by yourself or you have a signature on file.

If it's Dad's box in a small town where everyone knows Dad, how will the friend pull this off? My picture is taken to get entree into the vault (which I apologize for forgetting to mention earlier). It's not just signatures anymore.

ETA: and I agree with the idea that you should check with you bank. Maybe bring published work so they know you really are an author.
#17 - May 19, 2019, 06:25 PM
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Thanks, everyone for this lively helpful feedback. David thanks for the link.
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#18 - May 20, 2019, 05:34 AM

Just saw this post. I know I am late to the party but I have a safety deposit key story that is too good to not share. We bought our home about ten years ago from its original owner, who lived here for about 60 years! A few years after we moved in I was cleaning the eaves on porch and taking down Christmas lights when a little brown envelope fell down. It was a very old safety deposit key! We gave it to her daughter in law and the story sort of ends there but I've always thought it belonged in a story.
#19 - June 28, 2019, 03:41 PM

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