Billions of pounds are lying unclaimed in savings accounts that people have forgotten about.
Difficult as it may be to believe that anyone could lose track of their hard-earned money, it can be easier than you think to forget about savings accounts, particularly if you opened them many years ago, or have moved home several times over the years.
Accounts which haven’t been touched for 15 years or more, despite attempts by the savings provider to get in touch with the owner of the account, are known as ‘dormant’ accounts.
Once an account is identified as being dormant, the money is moved into a central fund which is put towards good causes. However, if you subsequently discover a forgotten bank account, you can still be reunited with your savings and the money will be transferred back to you.
Reasons we lose track of accounts
An estimated £15bn is sitting in old bank accounts, life assurance policies and investments, proving how easy it can be to lose track of your finances.
Moving home is one of the main reasons people forget about old savings accounts. If you haven’t set up a mail redirection service, any statement will simply go to your old address and without any paperwork, it can be hard to keep on top of where your savings are held.
Name changes, for example if you get married, can also cause you to lose track of old savings accounts if they are held in your previous name.
Another reason why people forget about accounts they have is because they may have been opened for them when they were a child. Sometimes the original paperwork is misplaced, perhaps because it was kept by the person who originally opened the account, or because it has simply been mislaid over time.
It’s also often not easy to know who is managing your account. Banks and building societies often merge, so even though you might think you have an account with one provider, it may now be held by a savings provider with an entirely different name.
Get your hands on your cash
If you think you might have money sitting in a dormant account, it’s imperative that you try and retrieve your cash as soon as possible.
An estimated £15bn is sitting in old bank accounts, life assurance policies and investments, proving how easy it can be to lose track of your finances
Dormant accounts usually pay dismal rates of interest, as banks and building societies reserve their best rates for the latest issues of their accounts, so you don’t want to leave your savings languishing there any longer than you need to.
You can find out if you have money in a dormant account through the free tracing service mylostaccount.org.uk. This is run by the British Bankers' Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and National Savings & Investments (NS&I), and provides a central point of contact to help people to find their forgotten savings.
In order to start the search for your savings, you will need to complete a form providing as much information as you can about the account you have lost. Facts which you should try to provide include the name of the account, where it was held, when it was opened and in which name, and the account number and sort code.
You should also try to give an idea of how much money you think was in the account, as well as where you were living when the account was opened, and which name it was held under. The more information you are able to provide, the greater the likelihood that your money will be located.
If you want to find an account on behalf of a friend or relative who has died, and left you money in their will, you can do this provided you can prove your identity and demonstrate that you are the rightful heir to the money.
If you are searching for unclaimed Premium Bond prizes, you can enter your account number into the online prize-checker search on the NS&I website at www.nsandi.com.
How long does it take to find an account?
The length of time it will take to track down your savings often depends on how much information you have been able to provide. If you have only a few details, the chances are it will take much longer than if you can find the account number and sort code. As a general rule, however, banks and building societies typically take up to three months to locate your savings, whereas NS&I claims that it will usually respond to requests within a month.
Fraudsters are targeting savers with e-mails telling them that they have a lost account. These e-mails usually ask for your personal details, including your bank account number and sort code. If you receive an e-mail like this, do not respond and delete it straightaway, as it is a scam. You do not have to pay to use the mylostaccount.org.uk service, so you will never be asked for your banking details.