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Millions left unclaimed in dormant accounts: how to trace your money

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
21/04/2016
There is currently £51m in unclaimed Premium Bond prizes, up to £1bn in dormant bank accounts and £400m in unclaimed pension savings. Below we explain the steps you can take to get your money back.

The amount of money left in dormant accounts equates to about £54 for every UK household and according to a Which? survey, 10% said they lost track of Premium Bonds, 8% said savings and 3% said pension savings.

If you believe you have money in a dormant account, here’s how to get it back:

Premium Bonds

National Savings and Investments (NS&I) said it will never deactivate Premium or Children’s Bonds meaning it will remain open unless it receives authorisation to close. But if it doesn’t have the most up-to-date information for you, you could miss a prize notification.

There’s no time limit on claiming prizes and you can use the NS&I-administered free service at mylostaccount.org.uk, or you can use NS&I’s own tracing service at nsandi.com/tracing-serviceform. Which? added that there’s no difference in this or the site above as the requests are processed by the same people.

Once you have been reunited with your bonds, you can ‘register’ them with NS&I to prevent you losing track of them again. You can also opt to have winnings paid directly into your bank account.

Savings

A savings or current account will become dormant if a bank or building society receives back undelivered mail or if there’s no activity on the account – typically between one and three years.

After 15 years, the cash will be transferred to the Big Lottery Fund. To claim your money, you can use the lost account service at mylostaccount.org.uk, or you can request a paper form for the service via bank and building society branches.

If the bank can’t find it, and you are convinced that the account does exist, you can complain via the Financial Ombudsman Scheme (FOS). The FOS expects banks and building societies to demonstrate they have done a full investigation – if a provider can’t demonstrate it has done this, Which? said the FOS is likely to view your case favourably.

Investments

There’s no set process by which an investment becomes dormant and unfortunately there’s no free catch-all tracing services.

If you think you have company shares, but have lost your share certificate, you can check by applying to the company registrars and for a fee, it’ll supply a replacement certificate.

There are three main share registrars – Capita Registrars, Computershare and Equiniti. You should contact the company in question directly to find out the correct registrar. If you have lost track of shares bought via a nominee account you would need to contact the broker.

For other investment products, try the Investment Association (theinvestmentassociation.org). You could also consider using the Unclaimed Assets Register (uar.co.uk) as it’s a database of investments, pensions and life insurance policies held with 76 major providers, including share registrars, administered by Experian.

It has records of five million lost assets in the UK, and you can do a single search of all of them. But you will have to pay a one-off £25 fee for the service.

If the firms can’t find your investment, there’s not much further action you can take.

Pensions

Every pension scheme works differently, but in general, with a defined-contribution scheme, six months ahead of this, your provider will get in touch in preparation for your upcoming retirement.

If it’s not possible for the scheme to contact you, it may move your savings into ‘safer’ investment funds or some other type of account. Typically, your savings will still exist until they are traced – although some schemes may convert them into an annuity at age 75.

If you’ve lost touch with a defined benefit scheme, missing out on pension income, the provider will normally take this into account by increasing payments once you trace it, Which? said.

For savings in a workplace scheme, you can use the Pension Tracing Service (gov.uk/find-lost-pension) or you could contact your former employer.

For personal pension savings you should contact the Pensions Advisory Service (pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk), which will help guide you through what to do.

The government confirmed the pensions industry would launch a pensions dashboard by 2019 allowing savers to see all their pensions in one place.

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