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#FNBHeists: How safe are bank vaults?

Jan 16 2017 17:35

Cape Town - The risk of storing valuables at home is still higher compared to storing items in a bank vault, according to CEO of MUA Insurance Acceptances Dawie Loots.

Loots said the burglaries such as the theft of the recent safety deposit boxes FNB happen very seldom in South Africa, especially when compared to residential robberies or burglaries.

FNB suffered three burglaries involving safety deposit boxes in the last 15 months. The incidents took place in September 2015 at FNB’s Sunnyside branch and twice in December 2016 at the bank's Randburg and Parktown branches.

READ: FNB safety deposit boxes targeted in New Year's Eve burglary

More than 300 safety deposit boxes were stolen during the heist at the FNB branch in Randburg on December 18 when robbers apparently overpowered a security guard. Just days later, a tip-off led the police to finding about 250 deposit boxes on a veld near the FNB Stadium in the south of Johannesburg.

On New Year’s Eve 2016 at the bank's Parktown branch, two bank vaults were opened and R1.7m and valuables which were inside 30 safety deposit boxes were stolen.

The robbery at Sunnyside in September 2015 involved the theft of 290 safety deposit boxes, reported ConsumerLIVE.

It added that FNB’s safety deposit contract absolves the bank from being held legally responsible for any loss or damage that may occur to the contents. However, this can be challenged if there is proof of negligence or fraud on the bank’s part, pointed out a JustMoney report.

READ: Joburg banner brands FNB as 'Flippen Negligent Bankers'

The victims of all three incidents are accusing FNB of being negligent and failing to adequately secure their possessions.

A victim who spoke to Fin24 on condition of anonymity said she believes that gross negligence is at play.

"I was concerned about the security of the location of the safety deposit boxes. Even the staff were worried about it and told me to speak to the manager of the branch."

While the Hawks are currently investigating the 2016 incidences, victims have hired private investigators as part of their own investigations, according to 702.

Read more on the #FNB heist:

Robbers make off with gift given during World War II

My father's most prized possessions stolen

My loss with FNB is irreplaceable

My kids' future was in that safety deposit box

With banks typically having having a disclaimer in place to state that they cannot be held liable for any loss or damage, Loots said it is critical that consumers have their valued items insured.

Loots indicated that most personal insurance policies will cater for items that are kept in a bank safety deposit box and will usually charge a reduced premium for these items as the risk of theft is perceived to be much lower.

The items kept in a bank deposit box are usually of high value and the policyholder should know that as soon as these items are taken out of the bank deposit box, they could have zero or inadequate cover, he said.

“It is vital to check with your insurance provider what the terms and conditions are should the items be taken out of the safety box. For example, what will the implications be should an expensive watch be taken out to wear to an event and the watch gets damaged or stolen,” he explained.

He said each insurance provider will deal differently with claims.

"It is advised that consumers speak to their broker for advice on how their insurance company will handle a similar situation,” said Loots.

READ: Can you still trust banks to keep your valuables safe?

Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence, promised to provide clients with answers, reported Fin24 sister publication City Press on Sunday.

Soul Abraham, head of commercial lines at Mutual & Federal, said that crime statistics show that in 2015/16, there were 250 606 incidents of house robbery countrywide. This is an average of 688.6 houses burgled every day.

In 2015, there were a total of 17 bank robberies and six in 2016. These figures are not necessarily theft of safe deposit boxes.

"Therefore, in my view, it is still safe to keep precious items in a bank safe-deposit box or vault.”

Abraham highlighted 5 tips for those with expensive valuables in need of protection:

1. Keep a detailed inventory of the items in the box, as well as photographs of these items.

2. Keep valuation certificates and authentic documents in respect of each item separate from the deposit box.

3. Compare the facilities that are available from both banks and private companies that supply the same services.

4. Ensure that you inform your insurer that the items are kept in a safe-deposit box.

5. Double-check the policy wording to determine the terms and conditions when items are kept and/or taken out of a safe-deposit box to ensure full cover is in place.

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