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Planning Retirement Online

Hidden Money              

                          October 2008



moneyThere is over £14 billion lying dormant in various accounts in the UK. Most of it is made up from small amounts in savings accounts opened by people years ago. A number of these small savings have turned into very useful amounts as they have accrued interest over the years; and there are also some surprisingly large deposits that seem to have slipped the mind of the investors.

It is not as surprising as it first seems though. Looking back, many of us open accounts here and there for specific purposes; then our life moves on and somehow, with probably far more important things going on at the time, we just never get around to sorting out that account.

In addition to funds in forgotten current and savings accounts, many people have share certificates they may have inherited or bonds they are not sure about, under company names or titles that no longer exist. At the moment there is around £1 billion in unclaimed life insurance; £3 billion in pension policies; £3 billion in shares and dividends and £300 million in unclaimed lottery wins.

It can be time consuming and daunting to try and get to the history of these accounts or holdings and find the right people to talk to in order to see if you are entitled to a nice little windfall.

But now there is quite a bit of help on hand to help track down missing funds and more and more people are getting a happy surprise as they find they can rightly claim some useful sums of money.

The government runs a Dormant Account Scheme which is aimed at reuniting forgotten cash it its owners.

An account is classed as dormant when no transactions have been carried out for a prolonged period (usually 12 months, but sometimes as long as three years) or if statements or other official correspondence are repeatedly returned as undeliverable. The balance is then transferred to a reserve account.

If you think you might have some unclaimed money, or indeed if you think a deceased relative has some money invested away somewhere, it will be a lot easier to track it if you know the name of the bank or institution, and even better have a policy number, or at least the account holder’s name and address at the time when the money was invested.

However, that is not always the case and then you need a bit of help.

A new website,, was launched last January and is proving enormously helpful and successful in tracking down missing money. The site brought together three original account search schemes – from the British Bankers’ Association; the Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments – and in the last six months 140,000 people have enjoyed a bit of a windfall after tracking down forgotten funds through this site.

It isn’t the easiest site to use as it asks for lots of information, but if you keep ploughing through it with the information you do have, it can prove very useful.  Interesting, during the year, people in the north west of England, including Manchester and Liverpool, have shown the most interest in tracking down accounts although people from the south, and especially from Portsmouth for some reason, have had the most success in actually being reunited with lost money.  searches through 42 banks, 59 UK building societies and all NS&I products including the old Post Office Savings Bank up to 1969. 

If you are more interested in trying to find money in an old insurance plan, pension or lost shares, then the Unclaimed Assets Registry is a better bet. This holds data for about 80% of UK life insurers, 17 occupational pension schemes, eight unit trust companies and 20 FSTE 100 companies. The Government's also runs a tracing service to help track down occupational pensions.


Other useful addresses include:

British Bankers' Association

Building Societies Association




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