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Credit Unions Offering Virtual Safe Deposit Boxes

POSTED ON BY

Credit Unions Offering Virtual Safe Deposit Boxes

Thanks to a reader's email, I learned about a new service that Digital Credit Union (DCU) has recently launched. It's called File Vault. Here's how DCU describes this service in its File Vault FAQ:

Ordinarily, a safe deposit box is a good place to keep your important documents. However, many of the important documents we need to save today are electronic: wills, mortgage documents, financial statements, etc. We typically store these on our computer's hard drive, which is vulnerable to viruses and malware and leaves us at risk of losing these documents.

File Vault offers you a free and secure online storage method for your electronic documents.

File Vault is a branded version of a product that is sold by DigitalMailer under the name My Virtual StrongBox. The first credit union to offer this product was Northwest Federal Credit Union. Its members who receive eStatements have access to 100MB of document storage at no charge. According to its My Virtual Strongbox page:

It serves as an online safe deposit box to keep copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, insurance coverage information, wills and more.

This type of service isn't new. Back in 2008 Wells Fargo launched a similar service. It was called vSafe. However, unlike DCU and Northwest Federal, Wells Fargo's service wasn't free. Customers had to pay $4.95/month for 1 GB of storage in vSafe. The service didn't attract enough customers, and Wells Fargo has shut it down.

One nice aspect of a virtual safe deposit box that's offered from your bank or credit union is that you know it's from a legitimate company.

One problem with this service from DCU and Northwest Federal is that the free storage is limited to 100MB. It appears members have access to more storage for a fee. That's probably how DigitalMailer hopes to increase revenue from this product.

How do you store and protect your electronic documents?

One option is to use online backup services like Carbonite and mozy. Both claim to be secure with encryption of all files before they are transferred into online storage.

Even if you trust the security of the online backup services, you still have to worry about sensitive documents being accessed when they are locally on your PC. If your PC is stolen or if a virus infects your PC, those documents could be at risk.

To protect your documents when they are stored locally, there's encryption software that can be used. TrueCrypt is a popular choice for encryption that's free. The main concern for using software like this is that if you forget the password, there may be no way to gain access to the documents.

Once a document is encrypted, you then could copy the documents to flash drives that can be kept in a safe or in a physical safe deposit box. Another option is to keep them in the cloud. There are now many free online storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox.

Of course, no security is 100%. Even with the best encryption, there's always the chance that your password could be comprised by malware. It should be noted that there's also security risks with paper documents which can be stolen.

Besides security, there's another issue to consider. How will family members access important documents if you pass away or are incapacitated? If plans don't address this issue, electronic and online storage of documents can create problems.


  Tags: Digital Credit Union, Northwest Federal Credit Union

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Comments
20 Comments.
Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear Mr Tumin,
 

Air Force FCU also offers a similar service.

There are limits on the typs of files one can upload ( PDF, TXT, XSL, DOC, XSLX, DOCX, JPG, PNG).

Also there is a per file size limit (1000 Kbytes), and number of files one can upload (10) per month.

 
Yours Truly,

Anonymous

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Comment #2 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
A per file size limit of 1000K is virtually useless unless you are using small PDF documents.

1
Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Consider BoxCryptor with your Cloud Drive as well. Another option to encrypt both locally and in the cloud.

1
Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear #2,

>> A per file size limit of 1000K is virtually useless unless you are using small PDF documents.

It is matter of usage. 

Scanned copies of important documents (e.g. Gun Permit, Vehicle Title, Mortgage Deed, Passport) are not all that big. Surely one can find this service useful if one has the file(s) that are within the limitations.

BTW the service is free!

Yours Truly,

Anonymous

2
Comment #5 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear Mr Tumin,


DCU  also offers once a month free FICO score. 

BTW, I find storage offered by DCU more useful than what is offered by Air Force FCU.  I use DCU of relatively larger files that change relatively frequently, and Air Force FCU of smaller files that do not change very frequently.

As I mentioned before, the srvice by Air Force FCU is free, and I've found a good usage for it.  Service by DCU is free as well, and I use that one also.  Having 2 (or more) backups is not at all a bad idea.

 
Yours Truly,

Anonymous

2
Comment #6 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
There's no point in storing important documents in electronic form unless it is admissible in court or agency.  

2
Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear - #6,

 

>> There's no point in storing important documents in

>> electronic form unless it is admissible in court or agency. 

Importance is subjective.

Plenty of times some of the documents (e.g digital family photos, scanned copy of one's certificates) I'd consider as important, are never expected to get into any court as any sort of evidence/exhibit at all. 

The importance of of the document (file) is determined by the user of course, and surely not how admissible it is in the court of law!

Yours Truly,

Anonymous

 

2
Comment #8 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
I use TrueCrypt to encrypt what's on my computer, then I back everything up with Mozy (which encrypts everything once more before going online). I figure that's good enough for most data thieves out there. There's a lot of lower hanging fruit out there for them, so I figure my info is safe for decades if not centuries. Even if the CIA wants to crack in there and see my SSN, I think they've got their work cut out for them...

3
Comment #9 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Be sure that you backup TrueCrypt's "encrypted volume" with Mozy or whatever. Don't just back up the unprotected documents. If something happens at Mozy your data can be stolen (but if you backup the encrypted volume, they'll just get garbled junk, which they'll have to decrypt somehow).

2
Comment #10 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Why not use a fire proof safe. It works for me. The thives are not interested unless there is lot of money in it.

4
Comment #11 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear #10,

>> Why not use a fire proof safe. It works for me.

>> The thives are not interested unless there is lot of money in it.

Err ... How would the thieves determine if this is lot or little money, unless they break open the safe and find out for themselves?  :-)

... Surely you don't list the inventory of the what's in the safe, on the outside ... Do you? :-)

Yours Truly,

Anonymous

2
Comment #12 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To any Attorneys out there:

Are documents in electronic form admissible in court or agency?

2
Comment #13 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear #12,

Answer is yes.  Documents in electronic format are very much admissible in a court of law.

A simple example: Tax Returns filed in electronic format with the IRS are admissible in the court of law.

Yours Truly,

Anonymous

2
Comment #14 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To Anonymous - #11,
I have fire safe so did my father and his father. There was never any attempt to open the safe by force by anyone in over 80 years, why, because a thief is not interested in such small box and to open it, he has to blow it with dynamite and destroy the content in it.

A fire safe build into a concrete floor is impossible to steal anything from it or be open by force even if you have some money in it, it is not worth to anyone to break into it considering the time that will take to jack hammer the safe out of 2‘ concrete and steel, without knowing for sure that something of value is in it.

It is much easier for a thief to intercept and or monitor your digital file transfers online or send you via a back door communication Trojan  (virus) and get your passwords as you type them.

I’ll stick to my physical safe for now, until a company will not ask me to accept the service without any warranties of any kind, should I lose my data or is being stollen by someone.
Disclaimer means, you are at your own perils should you send the files to us and we do not know who will intercept or get your data from us should we get hacked.

6
Comment #15 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
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Dear #14,

Sure ... I know the virtues of the fire resistant safe in a concrete block, and I'm glad to learn that it has worked for you and your forefathers.  But you see, many times the issue is that what has worked securely, safely stops being so safe and secure (e.g even a safe and secure nuclear plant at Fukushima became not too secure and safe).

Of course I do not wish it for you, but a Storm Surge, an Earthquake, a Tornado can wreck roofs, bridges, levees, and buildings so a mere concreate block might afterall not be all that safe when it meets a superior force.

When you're thinking of a smart hacker who may steal the files (Ethan Hunt? :-) ), also think of a smart safe cracker who might simply open your safe not necessairy knowing if something worth his/her time/risk can be found inside.

Yours Truly,

Anonymous

 

 

1
Comment #16 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
100Mb free limit and 1Mb file limit?   This is utterly useless.  

Encrypt your data, create a free Dropbox account and enable 2-factor authentication.  Bingo - completely secure service with 2.5GB of free storage and no silly filesize limits.  

2
Comment #17 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Anonymous - #15,

Where did you read about concrete blocks?
The safe is embedded in a concrete floor and surrounded with 2‘ of solid (poured) concrete all around it and re-enforced with steel plates and  re-bars.
Even if the house is picked up by a tornado, the safe will be there without a scratch on it.
The structural engineer (when he designed it) said that a tornado should be over 500 MPH in order to yank it out of ground.
The tornados go up to Mach 5 or around 200 MPH maximum. So, your theory is not working.

Can you tell me where the cloud servers are located?
Probably on the fifth floor of an executive building in the closet or in a regular air conditioned  room. What kind of safety they have and where are they keeping the archived (back-up) tapes, hard drive or SSD?
Going into extremes,  following your logic, a magnetic pulse or x-rays from the sun can easy destroy any present technology stored data on earth or a gamma radiation from a super nova can have the same effect. Even if nothing of the above happens, magnetically encoded information has a useful life of about 10 years before the 1‘s turn into 0s.

2
Comment #18 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Maybe Japanese will come to you & get your enginer's number for designing their next nuclear plant!

 

1
Comment #19 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
To Engineer genius: 

Mach 1 = 768 mph in dry air at 68 degree F

Where did you get your number of Tornado at Mach 5, which will be 3840 mph.

We are talking about strorms on Earth, not Jupiter.




 

1
Comment #20 by Jim Davis (anonymous) posted on
Jim Davis
 You might want to check out KeePass a freeware password manager that can also store files (images) and its all well encrypted in a single container.

 

 

1