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Moneybox Friday, 27 December, 2002, 12:24 GMT
Finding your lost fortune
There could be unclaimed money waiting for you

Any one of us could be sitting on a fortune - or at least a little windfall.

There are billions of pounds unclaimed in the coffers of financial institutions.

So how can you find out if any of this money has your name on it? And what will it cost you to get it back?

It could be easier than you think to track down that lost savings account, insurance policy or those premium bonds and it need not cost you a penny.

National Savings

National Savings has 1.5bn of "forgotten money" plus another 22m in unclaimed Premium Bond prizes.

The easiest way to find out if you have won anything is to go to the National Savings website

It launched a free tracing service just over a year ago - and since then it has unearthed 4m for 4,000 people - including a find of 216,000 for one lucky customer.

So how does it work? Premium Bonds first. The easiest way to find out if you have won anything is to go to the National Savings website.

You need to type in your Premium Bond holder's number. This is not the number of any of the Bonds you have, but is the unique number which National Savings allocates to each of its customers.

Once you have entered this number, the system checks it against all outstanding prizes going back to 1957. It can tell you immediately if you are successful.

There is no time limit for claiming premium bond prizes

If you do not have access to the web, you can write to National Savings with your details and it will search for you.

Although there is no time limit for claiming premium bond prizes, the money does not earn interest while it is waiting to be collected.

But interest will keep mounting up on any other lost National Savings investments like ISAs and saving certificates.

Again, it is simple to check if you have any money waiting for you. You cannot do this search online but you can download the Tracing Form from the website.

Alternatively you can ask National Savings to send you a copy.

At no point does the money ever become the property of the bank or building society

You simply fill in your name and any addresses you have lived at since first taking out your investment.

National Savings checks these details against its records and lets you know if it finds any matches.

Dormant Savings Accounts

It is just as easy to track down old bank and building society accounts.

As with National Savings, any money left languishing in what are called "dormant accounts" remain the property of the individual.

At no point does the money ever become the property of the bank or building society.

Both the British Bankers' Association and the Building Societies' Association run free schemes to help reunite customers with their cash.

If the money is in an interest-bearing account, then you will be entitled to interest as well as the amount you originally deposited

The rules are very simple. If you know the name of the bank or building society in question then you contact it directly, and it will help you trace your money.

If your money was in a bank, but you can not remember which one, or perhaps, a building society which has now become a bank, then British Bankers' Association Dormant Accounts Unit can help you track it down.

As before, if the money is in an interest-bearing account, then you will be entitled to interest as well as the amount you originally deposited.

Again you need to fill in a simple form with as much detail as possible about you and the account.

You can download the form from the BBA website or ask them to send you one. They are also available in most banks.

There are some other free schemes which can help put you in touch with your money

The Building Societies Association Scheme works in exactly the same way, and as before forms are available on the BSA website and in building societies.

Crucially the two organisations regularly swap information with each other, so it doesn't matter if you contact the wrong one by mistake.

Other Schemes

There are some other free schemes which can help put you in touch with your money.

The Pension Scheme Registry has details of almost 200,000 UK pension schemes.

It can put you in touch with the present pension trustees who will help you claim any benefits.
If you think you might have missed out on share dividends, you can usually ask for them to be repaid

The Association of British Insurers can help you track down old insurance companies - although it can not help you to find an individual policy.

Similarly, if you think you might have lost touch with an Investment Trust, the Association of Investment Trust Companies can put you in contact with the firm in question.

But it cannot trace the money for you. The Investment Management Association can do the same for unit trusts and open-ended investment companies.

If you think you might have missed out on share dividends, you can usually ask for them to be repaid if you can show you have not received them.

It might be worth paying to search the Unclaimed Assets Register

Contact the Registrar for the company in question. If you need more help, Companies House in London holds the details of every company registered in the UK since 1975 - including those which are not listed on the stockmarket.

Unclaimed Assets Register

But there is another alternative. If you think you might have money with lots of different financial institutions or that there could be large amount waiting for you, it might be worth paying to search the Unclaimed Assets Register.

You can search a range of different financial institutions at one go

The UAR is a database which holds information about unclaimed money in more than 50 companies like The Prudential, Standard Life and BT.

It has details of life insurance policies, pensions, unit trusts and share dividends.

The beauty of the system is that you can search a range of different financial institutions at one go.

You simply send the company your name and address and it will cross-reference your details with its database.

Unlike the other schemes, there is a fee. A search costs 18 - but for that the company will also do a second sweep 12 months later, and it donates 10% of every fee to charity.

Around a fifth of all searches are successful, with the biggest to date worth 83,000.

There are a number of other organisations which charge a percentage of the amount they eventually recover.

But they tend to approach individuals when the company has already traced lost assets, rather than individuals going to them asking for help.

Most of us will not be that lucky - but you never know, you might be. Wherever your money might be, is it not worth finding out?

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27 Sep 02 | Moneybox
14 May 01 | Business
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