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BankAtlantic offers an online safe deposit box

Want to store some valuable documents in a safe deposit box without messing with those clunky metal boxes and easy-to-lose keys?

Now you can make a virtual drop-off.

BankAtlantic of Fort Lauderdale is the first Florida bank to offer an online safe deposit box to its Internet banking customers.

For as little as $2.50 a month, customers can store a digital copy of financial records, insurance papers, house deeds, tax returns, wills, photos and other documents inside their own electronic box. The idea is to provide a safe haven for documents now stored on a computer's hard disk that may be susceptible to data corruption or could get lost.

Atlanta-based Safedepositbox.com, the provider of the service, has signed 6,500 customers since its February launch. Most are browsers that found the safe deposit site on their own or came through an agreement with Internet-only NetBank.

BankAtlantic is the first bricks-and-mortar customer to sign up. But Scott Clancy, a spokesman for Safedepositbox.com, predicts two more "significant" announcements with other banks within 30 days.

BankAtlantic, with six branches in the Tampa Bay area, touts the service as safer than keeping computer disksaround the house, particularly with hurricane season looming.

As for customers fretting about how safe their super-important documents will be floating in cyberspace, Clancy is full of reassurance: All data is automatically scrambled and would be meaningless to anybody who did break into the system.

There are several levels of encryption. Passwords are stored offsite deep within another company's fire wall. There are no advertisers on the site, hence no "cookies" or virtual trails that can be used to track a customer's meandering on the site.

"This is the highest level of transmission encryption in the world," Clancy said. He couldn't resist adding, "Of course, there's probably a 9-year-old in Holland that can do something with it. I'm kidding."

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