When you obtain a safety deposit box, the bank issues you a key that you can use to secure your belongings inside and prevent anyone else from accessing them.
Although safety deposit boxes typically prevent your belongings from being accessed by anyone who doesn’t have the key, there are some situations in which the contents of these boxes are not protected.
The most common situation in which your safety deposit box can be opened by someone else is when the IRS obtains a judgment against you for back taxes.
The IRS has considerable power when it comes to collections. If you owe money to this agency, they can access your income, freeze your bank accounts and even seize your safety deposit box. Until you pay the debt, you may have no access to anything in your box.
Some people mistakenly believe that they will be able to stop the IRS from freezing a safety deposit box simply by opening the box anonymously.
However, in order to prevent money laundering and other similar crimes, banks require you to provide identification before they will issue a safety deposit box. Thus, the IRS will be able to find your safety deposit box easily.
Keep in mind that laws preventing unreasonable searches and seizures still protect you from the IRS. However, if the IRS has reasonable suspicion that you owe money, they will have the power to seize your assets.