There is thought to be somewhere between £15bn and £77bn in unclaimed money sitting in forgotten investments, pensions, bank accounts and a whole range of other places in the UK. So, how can you go about finding out if any of it is yours?
There is more than £5bn in forgotten pension schemes in the UK, according to the Pension Tracing Service. We have, on average, 11 jobs during our working lives and because of this it’s easy to lose track of employee pensions. Personal pensions can get lost when you move house, change your name or neglect to update your personal details.
But there are ways you can track this money down. The Pension Tracing Service is free and impartial, and you can start the process online, although you will then be sent documents which you need to sign in order for it to search on your behalf. Alternatively, you could try the Pensions Advisory Service, which is another free service providing lots of useful tips, advice and search tools.
If you think you might hold shares in a company, but you have no record of them and cannot find the share certificates, you can check by applying direct to any or all of the three main company registrars – Capita, Computershare and Equiniti. They will search their records for free but will charge you a fee for issuing a replacement certificate. Alternatively, the Investment Association or the Association of Investment Companies might be able to help.
3. Old bank and building society accounts
According to the Money Advice Service there is £850m sitting unclaimed in British accounts. These days we tend to be less loyal to banks and building societies than was the case for our parents’ or grandparents’ generations, and this has increased the likelihood of losing money as we switch.
Fortunately, it’s easy to check using a free online service called My Lost Account. It covers over 30 banks and all 44 UK building societies and it will help you trace any lost personal accounts. It is particularly useful in instances where a bank or building society has closed or merged. Banks and building societies say they aim to respond within three months.
4. Premium Bonds
NS&I reports that there are more than 1.5 million unclaimed prizes worth more than £60m. The My Lost Account service can tell you if you hold any Premium Bonds which you may not have been aware of. That in itself is useful information, but most people will want to know if those missing Premium Bonds have won a prize over the years. Stage two is to find out whether you hold a prize-winning number by visiting NS&I and filling in the online form. NS&I says it will respond within one month. Note that any Bonds bought more than 30 years ago are likely to be individually numbered – to get a bond holder’s number you will need to write to NS&I at Glasgow, G58 1SB.
5. Lost insurance policies
You can hold a life insurance policy for many years and because of this they are easily forgotten. Unclaimed Assets UK, which helps to trace lost money, estimates there is £2bn languishing in unclaimed life insurance. To find out if a deceased person had a life insurance policy, it can be helpful to go through old bank statements or cancelled cheques to see if any premiums were paid. You could also contact the people who dealt with their legal or financial matters and even past employers.
6. Lottery wins
In September, there were almost £12m in unclaimed National Lottery prizes, but all prizes have to be claimed within 180 days. To check whether you have won an unclaimed lottery prize, go to the National Lottery website, click on the ‘Check results’ tab and you will find a section on unclaimed prizes. This lists any large unclaimed prizes and the site allows you to input numbers for Lotto, EuroMillions, ThunderBall, Lotto HotPicks and EuroMillions HotPicks. After 180 days, any unclaimed prizes go to fund National Lottery Projects.
7. Child Trust Funds
Tax-free Child Trust Funds saw children born between 2002 and 2011 given a government bonus of £250 each, but over one million such bonuses were classified as ‘addressee gone away’, meaning they have not been claimed. According to The Share Centre, as of June this year, as much as £1bn could be lost. To find out if you, or more accurately your child, might be one of them, simply submit a request via GOV.UK – you’ll need a Government Gateway ID, which you will already have if you submit a tax return.
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Your financial adviser can help you manage your money properly, so that it doesn’t end up among the billions that have been lost