The idea of losing track of your hard-earned cash may sound rather abstract, yet millions of pounds lie in old and forgotten accounts – meaning many of us have done exactly this.
There may be a number of reasons for this – such as moving house and failing to update details, changing job, or simply failing to remember about some of your finances.
Changes to the Dormant Assets Scheme
For the past decade, money and savings held in so-called ‘dormant’ bank and building society accounts – cash which has been left untouched for 15 years – has been moved into the Government’s Dormant Assets Scheme.
Since 2011, more than £745 million collected this way has been distributed to good causes, social investments and environmental initiatives.
In January this year, the Government confirmed an expansion of this scheme which will now include some insurance, pensions and investment products.
It is thought this move could unlock around £800 million in lost funds for use in UK projects and charitable causes – including helping to pay for the Coronavirus recovery.
Can I still get my money back?
Crucially, any money belonging to you is still yours to claim back at any point in the future – no matter how long the fund has been deemed dormant.
In fact, the scheme’s priority is still to locate people and reunite them with their lost financial assets. Companies signed up to the scheme must do all they can to trace owners.
But at the same time, it’s important to be proactive yourself if you think you have lost track of money in savings, pensions and other places. In most cases, you can take simple steps to get your cash back, without having to pay a penny. Here’s what you can do.
1) How to find lost current accounts and savings accounts
If you know the name of the bank or building society where you think you may have money, you should first contact them.
If you’re not sure of the details, you can make use of the My Lost Account service.
This tool is a collaboration between UK Finance (for the banks), the Building Societies Association and National Savings & Investments (NS&I), meaning you can search for lost accounts across the lot, all in one go.
You will need to wait around 90 days to hear back. But if you do find you’ve got money in an account you’d forgotten about, it will be well worth the wait.
2) How to track down lost pensions
One of the most common reasons for losing track of pensions is failing to update details of your new address when you move house.
Another common reason is the fact we now change jobs a lot more frequently during our working lives, often signing up to a host of different pension schemes along the way.
Recent research from the Association of British Insurers estimates that UK workers have lost track of up to 1.6 million workplace pension pots, leaving a huge £19.4 billion languishing in dormant pension accounts.
When trying to track down workplace pensions, you should begin by contacting your employers to get details of the pension provider.
For personal pensions, try and lay your hands on any old paperwork to get an idea of where your money is held.
Lost funds can also be recovered using the Government’s Pension Tracing Service.
3) How to locate old insurance policies
Given we take out a multitude of insurance policies over the years, it’s understandable you might lose track at some point.
If you can find policy documents but can’t find the insurer, it could be the case that the firm has changed its name, or been taken over by another insurer.
Your best starting point is to visit the ABI which has details of all old insurance firms – and information about what’s happened to them. It also has lots of useful information on tracing policies here.
If you can’t put your hands on any paperwork, spend some time going through old bank statements to see if you can find payments to insurance providers – and go from there.
4) How to get reunited with lost investments
If you know which firm you held investments with, give them a call and they will help you find them.
Another option is to make use of the Unclaimed Assets Register. This service, run by credit reference agency, Experian, could prove very helpful, but you will have to pay a £25 fee to carry out a search.
The UAR service might also be helpful when it comes to tracking down lost life insurance policies.
5) How to find out if your child has money in a Child Trust Fund
CTFs were tax-free Government-funded accounts made available to children born in the UK between September 2002 and January 2011.
Most children got an initial £250 sum from the Government, with lower-income families on benefits getting more. Parents were able to top up the accounts over the years until their son or daughter turned 18.
CTFs came to an end in 2011, and have now been replaced by Junior ISAs (individual savings accounts).
But many children may have sizeable sums squirreled away in a CTF.
To find out if your child has one of these accounts, head here.
Make sure you’ve got a Government Gateway user ID and password. Armed with this, you can then fill out a form with your child’s details – and wait to find out where their CTF is held.
6) How to search for premium bonds – and prizes
To find lost NS&I savings accounts, and any premium bonds you’d forgotten about, you can use the My Lost Account service mentioned above.
To find out if you’ve won the £1 million jackpot – or, perhaps more realistically, one of the smaller prizes – use NS&I’s prize-checker tool. You will need your holder’s number to do this.
If you have older bonds which don’t have a holder’s number, contact NS&I for help with individually numbered bonds.
7) How to check if you’ve won the lottery
You can check for unclaimed prizes by heading to this page on the National Lottery website.
Don’t delay though, as if a valid claim is not received within six months of the draw date, the prize – and any interest earned – will go to benefit National Lottery Projects across the UK.