You could reclaim lost riches locked up in shares, savings and other accounts you have forgotten about. Here’s how to use your inner Indiana Jones and find them…
Inspiration: Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf as adventurers in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
A campaign launched last month designed to reunite a million young people with lost Child Trust Funds highlights a wider problem – a pile of assets of all varieties that rightful owners fail to claim.
Industry estimates suggest as much as £15billion languishes in bank and building society accounts, National Savings and Investments products, pensions and life insurance plans – often opened decades ago and then lost in the mists of time.
The Mail on Sunday shows you how to go on a treasure hunt and unearth the money that is rightfully yours.
Accounts opened for children are particularly at risk of disappearing into oblivion as owners may never realise they had them.
CHILD TRUST FUNDS. Up to £600,000 is thought to be sitting in forgotten Child Trust Funds. These tax free accounts were put in place for all children born between September 2002 and January 2011, with a kick-start Government bonus of up to £250 a child. Research by The Share Centre found that as many as a million CTFs, which were replaced by Junior Isas in 2011, have been classed as ‘addressee gone away’ – and so lost to their owners.
As part of the campaign to track down owners and ‘relink’ them with their money, a poster has been sent out to thousands of secondary schools to nudge youngsters into chasing up their accounts.
Whilst owners cannot access the cash held in CTFs until they are 18, the funds can be transferred to more competitive Junior Isa accounts.
CLUE: Parents who have forgotten about their offsprings’ CTFs can trace them by completing a HM Revenue and Customs form online.
To do this they need to sign in to their Government Gateway account – or set one up.
Missing: The poster sent to schools to help reunite Child Trust Funds with their owners
CHILDREN’S BONDS. National Savings & Investments Children’s Bonds – and their predecessor Children’s Bonus Bonds – were popular gifts from the early 1990s.
These five-year bonds were discontinued in September 2017, though maturing bonds could be renewed for a further five years up until April this year.
Published figures show that last year alone, £12million of matured ‘baby bonds’ went unclaimed.
They have been shunted into NS&I’s ‘residual account’ – a dead-end home for all matured savings bonds that earn just 0.1 per cent a year.
Estimates suggest a huge proportion of the £638million languishing in the residual account is made up of unclaimed Children’s Bonds.
Although parents receive annual interest statements and a reminder letter 30 days before maturity, there are no further prompts.
We’ll help you hunt…
The Mail on Sunday, with the help of The People’s Pension, is inviting readers who think they have lost a pension to get in touch. We will select three readers and help them with the tracing process. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
CLUE: In the past ten years about £11million has been reunited with holders of Children’s Bonds – but there are millions of pounds more up for grabs.
Track down bonds through NS&I’s free tracing service at nsandi.com or by writing to Tracing Service, NS&I, Glasgow G58 1SB.
Mergers and takeovers of providers and the regular replacement of accounts with new deals can cause savers to lose track of their money.
Accounts that have not been used for 15 years or more become ‘dormant’ with the cash transferred to a central fund used for good causes. But the money is still legally yours should you realise it is mislaid.
It makes sense not to leave these dormant accounts sleeping as interest rates are poor. You should switch them to better deals.
CLUE: Banks and building societies have made it easier to locate stray savings with a joint tracing service. The free service can also be used for tracking down NS&I accounts. To find out more, visit mylostaccount.org.uk.
Company takeovers and mergers often lead to name changes and confusion for shareholders who can lose track of investments. It is thought there are around £3billion owed to UK investors from unclaimed shares and dividends.
Regulations say shares cannot be cancelled even if a shareholder cannot be traced. Some companies do have the right to retain dividends that remain unclaimed after a certain period, usually 12 years.
When Standard Life demutualised and floated on the stock market 2.4million policyholders were awarded windfall cash or shares. More than 300,000 people failed to claim. But following a campaign in 2014 warning that time would run out in 2016, this fell to 60,000.
These people can no longer claim the forgotten cash which was transferred to the firm’s charitable foundation.
CLUE: To check ownership, either contact a company direct or one of the share registrars that hold shareholder information. They are Computershare, Equiniti and Capita Asset Services.
Treasure: There is around £3bn owed to UK investors from unclaimed shares and dividends
Life insurance, life-linked savings plans and friendly society plans often go unclaimed.
To track down whether you or a relative has a policy it helps to know the name of the insurance company. This might be revealed by trawling credit card or bank statements.
CLUE: Trace a forgotten policy through the Unclaimed Assets Register at uar.co.uk, which charges £25 per search. If the firm name doesn’t seem to exist, visit The Association of British Insurers at abi.org.uk or policydetective.co.uk. Friendly societies can be tracked down at the Association of Financial Mutuals at financialmutuals.org.
Remarkably, thousands of winners in the monthly Premium Bond draw from National Savings & Investments never come forward to claim their cash prizes that range from £25 to £1million.
About 1.4million unclaimed prizes worth more than £58million are up for grabs. The highest value of forgotten windfall is £100,000 with five of these prizes overlooked – two of them from the February 2002 draw.
The sums are usually missed because bond holders have moved home or died. NS&I’s tracing service has helped reunite customers with about £760 million, since February 2008.
NS&I says the best way to avoid missing out is to keep details up to date (online at nsandi.com or by phone on 08085 007 007) or signing up to have prizes paid directly into a bank account. Another option is to have winnings reinvested into their Premium Bond account up to the maximum £50,000 limit.
CLUE: To check Premium Bond prizes tap in your bondholder’s number at the website nsandi.com/prize-checker. There is no time limit on claiming a prize.
Lotto or EuroMillions winners need to be more agile than those who triumph with Premium Bonds, as there is an expiry date for claims. If winners don’t come forward within 180 days, the money goes to good causes.
CLUE: A guide to tracing unclaimed lottery prizes can be found at national-lottery.co.uk/results/unclaimed-prizes.
I have bought a car – thanks to cash I did not even realise that I had
Stephen Pankhurst was recently reunited with a £3,000 pension he did not even know he had.
Stephen, 66, from Guildford, worked for decades in the construction industry, but did not realise he was part of B&CE scheme – a specialist pension for construction workers and provider of The People’s Pension. He says: ‘They tracked me down via the Department for Work and Pensions and told me I had £3,000 owing. It was a lovely surprise.’
Surprise: Stephen Pankhurst was traced over a forgotten pension
He was given a lump sum that he has spent on buying a car, new carpets and other household items. Stephen says: ‘I’m hoping my experience will encourage people to go and find out if they are owed a pension too.’
Forgotten pensions can be traced relatively easily. Justin Modray, of Candid Financial Advice, says: ‘It is quite common for people to remember they have a pension with an old employer but to have mislaid the details. In that instance a letter to the employer usually does the trick and they receive an up to date statement with details of the scheme.’ But Government plans for a pensions ‘dashboard’ – where savers can keep the details of all their pensions in one place during their lifetime and never lose track of their retirement pots – have hit delays.
A single home for this information would reduce the risk of losing a pension – and seven out of 10 workers with a private or workplace pension scheme want such a scheme urgently as nearly half do not know how much they have saved for their retirement, according to research for The Mail on Sunday.
The survey by YouGov and The People’s Pension reveals one in five have lost track of a pot while a third do not know which company runs their workplace scheme.
Dave Brown, director of strategy and innovation at The People’s Pension, believes a dashboard is vital. He says: ‘The average person builds up 11 pension pots over their lifetime, causing a real risk that pots will be lost or forgotten, with people left unaware of what they have saved.’
CLUE: Retirement savers who recall the employer or pension company but cannot find any other information can try gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details.
The Unclaimed Assets Register is another source at uar.co.uk.
THIS IS MONEY’S FIVE OF THE BEST CURRENT ACCOUNTS