Recover your lost money

Published by Hannah Ricci on 13 December 2007.
Last updated on 21 May 2008

Person bending down to pick up a penny

The Government's Dormant Account Scheme is aimed at reuniting forgotten cash with its owners, but banks and building societies are also stepping up their efforts to help.

But it's worth tracking it down yourself if you think some of this 'lost' money could be yours. Here's how to go about it.

What is a dormant account?

An account is classed as dormant when no transactions have been carried out for a prolonged period (usually 12 months, but sometimes as long as three years) or if statements or other official correspondence are repeatedly returned as undeliverable. The balance is then transferred to a reserve account.

Millions going unclaimed

In addition to funds in forgotten current and savings accounts, there's an estimated £1 billion in unclaimed life insurance; £3 billion in pension policies; £3 billion in shares and dividends and £300 million in unclaimed lottery wins.

Locate the missing cash

If you think you or a deceased relative has unclaimed money, the first step is to contact the provider concerned. The more information you have the better, so have to hand the policy or account details, the account holder name and previous addresses.

Use an account tracing service

If you cannot find the company, perhaps because it has since merged, been taken over or changed its name - or you can't remember where the account was held - contact the British Bankers Association (, Building Societies Association or National Savings and Investments, which all operate free tracing services.

How to trace 'lost' policies

For insurance plans, old pensions or lost shares, try the Unclaimed Assets Registry. It holds data for about 80% of UK life insurers, 17 occupational pension schemes, eight unit trust companies and 20 FSTE 100 companies. The Government's Pension Service also runs a tracing service to help track down occupational pensions.

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