Hunter, Teresa. Sunday Times [London (UK)] 08 Apr 2012: 7.
DORMANT bank and building society accounts containing up to Pounds 400m wil
Accounts that have not been accessed for at least 15 years will be tapped t o provide funding for charities and other projects with social benefits.
Experts said the launch of Big Society Capital should provide a wake-up cal l to hard-pressed consumers who could claim back deposits in long-forgotten accounts to ease the financial squeeze.
WHAT IS A DORMANT ACCOUNT?
Bank and building society accounts are considered dormant once they have ha d no customer activity for 15 years. Often, they are accounts that were ope ned with small deposits that were easily forgotten, or most of the cash may have been withdrawn and just a small amount left behind to keep the accoun t running.
The total amount of unclaimed assets is estimated to run into billions of p ounds if life insurance and pension policies, National Savings & Investment s products, and all other kinds of investments are included. There are Poun ds 31m of unclaimed premium bond prizes alone.
HOW CAN I LEARN IF I HAVE A DORMANT ACCOUNT?
First contact the institution where you believe you may have deposited mone y, to see if it can help. If nothing else, it will be in your interest to m ake sure any funds are moved to a more modern account paying better interes t.
If this draws a blank, the financial institutions operate a free account tr acing service. More information is available at mylostaccount.org.uk. Natio nal Savings & Investments and Post Office savings can also be traced via th is site.
For other assets, try the Unclaimed Assets Register (uar.co.uk). This servi ce, operated by Experian, has a Pounds 25 fee.
IF I DON'T CLAIM, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY MONEY?
Banks and building societies have agreed to hand this cash over to the Recl aim Fund, which was established in March last year under the Dormant Bank a nd Building Society Accounts Act 2008. This will retain a proportion to rep ay any accountholders who claim their money. The surplus goes into the Big Lottery Fund, which divides it between the countries of the UK. Wales, Scot land and Northern Ireland can decide which social projects to use it for.
However, the government decided that England's share of the treasure chest will be invested in Big Society Capital, which has been established to supp ort social enterprises across the UK, including charities, co-operatives an d community groups.
ONCE THE MONEY GOES, HAVE I LOST IT FOR GOOD?
No. You never lose your rights to an account, so you can make a claim at an y time. The money will be paid to you with interest.
For this reason, the Reclaim Fund, which was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Co-operative bank, is being cautious about the sums trans ferred to the Big Lottery Fund as it must be sure it has held enough back t o meet all potential claims from account holders. So far, it has received P ounds 370m from banks and building societies, but paid only Pounds 47m to t he Big Lottery Fund.
Unclaimed insurance and pension policies, NS&I and Post Office savings, and other lost investments, funds and dividends have not yet been brought into the scheme.
Do not hand over money to a firm offering to help search for unclaimed asse ts on your behalf. While they charge a fee for this service, you can do thi s yourself free.