Monthly Archive: August 2014

Are Safe Deposit Boxes FDIC-Insured?

Safe Lock

As you probably know, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (more commonly known as the FDIC) automatically provides insurance for up to $250,000 (per person, per financial institution / bank) of money deposited into a bank. That means that in the event of a natural disaster or bank collapse, your money is safe. Since the insurance is from the government, it’s not backed by a private corporation, so it will be there no matter what, unless the government were to fail (in which case you probably have bigger issues to worry about).

So bank accounts are FDIC insured. But what about safe deposit boxes in a bank’s vault?

Are safe deposit boxes insured by the FDIC?

Gold Combination Lock

The short answer is no. Safe deposit boxes are NOT FDIC insured. That means that in the event of a disaster, the contents of your safe deposit box may not actually be as safe as you think. The contract you signed when you leased the box likely says the bank is not liable if the contents are ruined, perhaps by something like a hurricane or flood. Hurricane Katrina destroyed at least 8,000 safe deposit boxes in 2005, so it can happen. (Source)

Even though there’s no FDIC insurance, the bank itself may have some limited insurance. Check your contract, because they might at least refund the charge of the box’s lease to you. (Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to keep your contract in the deposit box!)

However, if a bank fails, they are legally obligated to return the contents of your safe deposit box to you.  According to the FDIC website, in the event of a bank’s collapse, your possessions from the safe deposit box ought to be available for you to pick up from the bank on the next business day. (Source)

Some Euros on a table

Image via PicJumbo

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should avoid safe deposit boxes. In most ways, keeping valuable papers or other items secure in a bank vault will be safer than keeping them at home, especially if you don’t have a good home safe in your house. You may also be able to get a rider on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to cover safety deposit box contents. Your standard policy may or may not cover it, but if it does, there’s likely a $1,000 limit.

If you’re considering keeping money in a vault, don’t do it. By putting it into an actual bank account, you’ll not only gain FDIC insurance coverage on it, you’ll also receive interest. Also, don’t keep your will in the bank. Although it seems to make sense, it will require a court order to open your vault to get at the will after your death.

Best Diversion Safes for Your Car

I’ve written about diversion safes before. See what is a diversion safe. A home diversion safe can be a great way to give some protection to your valuables. After all, someone robbing your house isn’t really likely to look inside your deodorant stick (yes, really!), right?
Deodorant Safe on Amazon
Well, your house isn’t the only place you’ll want to hide stuff from thieves. In fact, it might be even more useful to have an automotive diversion safe for your car. There are only so many places to hide valuable stuff in a car.

Where to hide valuables in a car

Obviously, leaving your valuables on the seat or anywhere visible through the window is a bad idea. Having flashy rims, or a new, booming stereo system visible to passersby can also be an invitation to thieves.

The best way for someone to not rob your car might be to have an older, nondescript car. According to this report, the top five brands of cars most likely to be broken into are, in order, Smart, Bentley, Land Rover, SsangYong, and Peugeot. I’ve never heard of SsangYong before, but the others are all newer, nicer cars that will stand out. The list of cars most likely to be stolen shows a similar pattern. It starts with BMW, then moves to Bentley, Audi, Land Rover, and Mercedes.

Of course, even if you know not to leave your GPS visible on the dashboard, sometimes you need to carry valuables in the car. Maybe it’s money, or a check, credit card, cell phone, or GPS unit. Where should you hide a GPS unit in your car?

The problem with cars is that there are only a few hiding places to choose from. You could stick stuff in the glove box, but I know if I was breaking into a car (which I’d never do!) the glove compartment would be the first place I’d look. Under the seat is an option, but again, it’s way too obvious to be effective. So how do you solve this? Make your own hiding place!

Car diversion safes

A good car diversion safe is the answer to where to hide valuables in the car. Remember, the purpose of a diversion safe is to be a hiding place that looks like something else. There are lots available for your house, but not as many for your car.

You could make your own diversion safe for your car by keeping your valuables in a bag in the bottom of your car’s garbage bag. No thief is going to dig through old fast food wrappers looking for treasure! Of course, you probably don’t want to either…and what if you accidentally threw away what you’re trying to protect? So, that’s not really an ideal option.

WD-40 Safe on AmazonHere’s a good one: A fake can of WD-40. No one would think twice at seeing a spray can of WD-40 lubricant rolling around in the trunk of a car, but it’s too much of a bother for someone to steal. What a perfect hiding place in your car or pickup truck for money or jewelry!

Fake cigarette lighter on AmazonOr this one. It’s a fake cigarette lighter. Again, it’s something that every car has, but who would even think of stealing it? It can’t hold much, but it’s a great storage spot in a pinch for some valuable medication, papers, lottery tickets, or cash.

Sadly, it doesn’t work as an actual lighter, but hey, smoking kills. No one actually uses the car lighter for a lighter, do they? Aren’t they really just annoying plugs for covering the cell phone charger or GPS plug?

Finally, you could also just use another diversion safe for your car from your house. Just make sure it’s something that looks like it could belong in an automotive, like this fake lint roller.

Hopefully this gave you some ideas. Diversion safes work! Just make sure you’re using them to protect stuff that’s legal for you to have – The FBI has issued a bulletin about them, so cops know to thoroughly search anything that could be concealing something else.

How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft

Secure Laptop against theft

What is the single most valuable thing you own? For most of us, it’s a car or a house. Aside from those, however, I’d venture a guess that your most valuable possession is your laptop computer. I know my custom-built MacBook Pro was by far the biggest purchase I’ve ever made.

Beyond the obvious value of what you paid for it, your laptop also likely has tons of your personal information on it. I know I have my banking information, all my receipts and financial records, my photos, and lots of my scrapbook memories on mine, as well as software that I’ve purchased and installed.

Secure Laptop against theft
Now, obviously, no one is going to walk off with your house, and your car has its own insurance. But how do you protect your laptop from theft? After all, it’s lightweight and easy for a thief to just walk off with.

You can’t put it into a safety deposit vault at the bank (well, ok, you could, but then it would be about as useful to you as if it was stolen!), but there are some simple ways to secure your laptop against theft and to minimize the damage if it is stolen.

Protecting Your Laptop

Our first priority is to stop someone from stealing your computer. Now, the obvious way to keep is secure is to stay by it all the time. But, that’s not practical. For instance, many people use their laptops in the library, either in a public library or a college library. If you get up to go to the bathroom, or to get a cup of coffee, or even just to pick up a job from the printer, you probably don’t want to carry your computer with you.

Computer Security Cable

Security Cable on AmazonFortunately, you don’t need to. You’ve probably never noticed it, but your laptop almost certainly has a Kensington security slot on it. What is a Kensington security slot? It’s a little slot on your computer which provides an anchor to attach a security cable like this one to your computer.

The other end of the cable can be wrapped in a loop around a desk or a study carrel to keep your computer safe. It’s not a bad idea to use a cable like this in your dorm room as well, because even if you trust your roommates, you might not trust everyone who they could let into the room.

A combination lock computer security cable is also small enough to carry around in your computer case. Of course, it could be cut by a determined thief with a wire-cutters, but so could a bicycle lock. A cable should be more than enough to deter any opportunistic sticky-fingered passersby.

Laptop Security Safe

If you’re worried about an intruder breaking into your residence and want something stronger than a cable, you might be interested in a low-profile laptop safe like this one. This model has a digital lock and can easily fit most laptops or tablets. It also has soft padding to keep from scratching your baby.
Laptop Safe on Amazon.com

You can hide the safe in a desk drawer, or under a bed. Again, it’s not perfect against a determined thief, but it will definitely keep your nosy roommate from snooping on your stuff or stealing your identity! It also claims to be fire-resistant, so it should help at least a little in case of a fire.

If you’re more concerned about price, here’s a good budget laptop safe. This one is lighter, but it has its own Kensington security slot right on it to allow you to use a cable to secure the case to some furniture.

What If Your Laptop Is Stolen?

We’ve covered some good ways to keep your laptop safe from thieves, but what if it is stolen? What will you do to keep your data safe?

One of the biggest problems that almost no one thinks about until their device is stolen is passwords. Most people take advantage of the feature in their browser that automatically remembers passwords for the sites they use. That convenience is helpful, but if you lose access to your browser, there are two problems.

First, someone who has access to your computer has access to your passwords. To get around that, make sure you have a strong password set on your computer itself and that the password is required at login. Consider using a password management program to store your passwords, logins, and credit cards instead of the built in browser tool. Personally, I use 1Password for Mac and I’m really happy with it.

Second, if you lose access to your computer, you lose your own access to your data. Again, 1Password can help with this. You can keep all your password data and other important files and pictures in Dropbox so they’re automatically, securely backed up to the cloud and you can access them from other devices or over the internet.

Finally, make sure you have account validation and two factor authentication set up for all the websites you use that support it, like Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Hopefully these tips can help you keep your laptop secure against anyone who wants to take it!

First Alert 2096DF Waterproof Fire Safe Review

First Alert 2096DF Features

Looking for a good waterproof fire safe? The First Alert 2096DF might be exactly what you’re looking for. The First Alert 2096DF safe can protect all your valuables from fire, water, and theft. This model can withstands temperatures up to 1700° F for up to an hour. It also provides a waterproof seal to ensure moisture doesn’t get in.

First Alert 2096DF on Amazon.comThe safe has high quality hinges to keep thieves at bay, but it also provides wheels and a handle for convenient transportation if necessary. This particular home safe is fully waterproof, preventing any moisture from getting to any of your important items — even if the chest encounters floods or a sudden burst of water from a broken pipe or failing roof.

If your primary concerns are protection for your important valuables against theft and robbery, the 2096DF doest disappoint. Not only does the safe come with an easy-to-use digital lock, it also forces you to place a key into the lock in order to open the safe as an added second security factor.

2096DF Details

The First Alert 2096DF safe is composed of steel with a plastic covering, and it weighs in at a solid, but not unmovable 145 pounds. The dimensions of the safe are 24.13 by 17.63 by 23.38 inches, with 2.1 cubic feet of usable interior space.

Here’s a link to the PDF manual for this model.

Purchasing

Built-in Key Holder and Passport Rack

Built-in Key Holder and Passport Rack

The 2096DF ships with “four AA batteries, two adjustable/removable shelves, one removable file rack, two emergency override keys, one removable handle, and one operation and installation guide.”

Although the safe comes with a five-year general warranty, it has a lifetime after-fire warranty that can help cover the loss of your important items after a fire, so be sure to read all the details and send in the registration information when you get it!

If you order through Amazon, this safe can also be shipped to a variety of countries beyond the United States. When you receive and unbox your safe, be sure to keep the desiccant bag it comes with, since it will absorb the moisture that enters the safe once you close it. This can help protect your important items from moisture, or water, damage.

First Alert 2096DF Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Easily store documents, along with CDs, USB drives, external hard drives, and other items where you store your important files.
  • Digital lock is easy to set up, allowing for a range from a three-digit code up to an eight-digit code.
  • Weighing in at 145 pounds, it provides protection against burglars since it requires at least two people to maneuver.
  • Lots of room inside to place variously shaped valuables, and there is no hassle with opening the safe.
  • Simple, precise setup instructions.
  • Batteries included

Cons:

  • It requires 4 AA batteries for the digital lock, but the product comes with these batteries. Eventually, of course, they’ll need to be replaced.
  • The instructions to program the digital lock code are incorrect. According to one product user, “The proper sequence is as follows:
    1. Safe open, bolts extended, door handle in down position.
    2. Open plastic cover.
    3. Press reset button in door.
    4. Enter new passcode on keypad follow by #.
    5. Enter new passcode again followed by #.
    6. Green light = passcode changed successfully.”
  • Each time you open the safe, you must lift the plastic cover (which seems to be “cheaply made” as referred to by one customer).
  • Even with the convenient use of wheels and the handle, the safe cannot be wheeled across carpet; therefore, it must be dragged across carpeted floors. The safe may also leave behind unwanted track marks on hardwood flooring.
  • Important documents, jewelry, money, and other fragile items need to be placed in an “airtight dishwasher safe container” when placing these items into the safe, as it is possible, over time, some moisture may accumulate inside, as in any safe of this type.
  • You must air out your safe every 30 days to let the moisture out of the safe, leaving it open for at least 20 minutes.

Verdict

View on AmazonThe First Alert 2096 is a great value if you’re looking for some added protection for your important items and documents. Your stuff will be protected against water, fire, and theft. Importantly, it is spacious enough to keep all of your valuables inside.

Although you do need to be a little cautious in what kind of items you place in the safe, as temperature sensitive and explosive items are not advised to place in here, since the internal temperatures of the safe cannot support items like pearls when the safe comes in contact with high temperatures, I still recommend the First Alert 2096DF. It’s simple to use, with easy-to-follow directions, and will help ensure that your items are safe and sound

Go check it out on Amazon for more information and to purchase.