Unearth your lost booty

31st August 2007 at 01:00
Got 200 quid sitting in a forgotten bank account you've held since you were five? Act now to save your money before the Government nabs it, advises Alison Brace.

Do you ever have the niggling feeling that somewhere out there is a bank account you had at primary school? Diligently you paid your pocket money in every week and lovingly took care of the bank book. Then you left home, went off to college and casually lost all contact with the account and its contents.

Sound familiar? Then you are one of the thousands of account holders whose money is earning interest in some dusty vault. If only you could have the cash, if only you could find the bank book...

Well, now is the time to track down your untold riches. According to the Unclaimed Assets Register, some pound;15.3 billion is sitting in dormant bank accounts and pension schemes, as well as unclaimed pensions, shares, lottery and premium bond prizes.

The British Bankers' Association has launched a major drive this summer to reunite people with their lost cash. You don't even need your bank book to claim it. You can download a claim form from the association's free money match service at www.bba.org.uk and fill in details online, or call 020 7216 8909.

"Don't worry if the amounts are small or even if you find the bank has merged and the branch moved," says Angela Knight, the association's chief executive. "Our experts will help you get your money back."

The Building Societies Association (www.bsa.org.uk) runs a similar scheme and, like the banks, is stepping up its campaign to find lost account holders. And National Savings is also trying to find the holders of accounts that haven't been touched for years. Visit www.nsandi.com or call 0845 964 5000.

The reason for this drive is because the Government now has designs on your unclaimed cash. It wants to put any money which has been lying in dormant accounts for more than 15 years to good use in community projects.

A similar scheme in the Republic of Ireland released millions of euros into the economy. Fear not, though, you can still claim your money back even if the 15-year deadline has passed.

Pensions are another thing that tend to go astray, particularly if you had another career before teaching and were happily paying into various pension schemes during that time.

Again, tracking down your lost pension can easily be done online. The Pension Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, keeps details of more than 200,000 pension schemes. It will track down yours for free at www.pensionsservice.gov.uk.

To trace a unit trust, ask the Investment Management Association (www.investmentuk.org) or the Association of Investment Companies (www.itsonline.co.uk) in the case of an investment trust.

The Unclaimed Assets Register (www.uar.co.uk) can help you find a lost life insurance policy. Again, there is an online form. This service is not free, however. It costs pound;18, with 10 per cent going to charity.

Martin Lewis, of the consumer champion site www.moneysavingexpert. com cautions against paying someone else to find your lost money. "There is absolutely no need to pay anyone to do this," says Martin. "It can easily be done yourself without forking out the cash."

Premium Bonds are another untapped source of millions pound;23 million at the last count. If you have a feeling that many moons ago Aunt Betty bought you pound;10 worth for your fifth birthday, it's worth checking what happened to them at www.nsandi.com. You never know you could have been a millionaire all these years and just didn't know it Where are the missing millions?

Millions

Life policies pound;1,000

Pensions pound;3,000

Shares and dividends pound;3,000

Dormant bank accounts pound;5,000

National Savings pound;3,000

Lotteries and other pound;300

Total pound;15.3 billion

Source: Unclaimed Assets Register

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