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Dormant Bank Accounts

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Banks and Building Societies are holding an estimated 41 billion of forgotten money. Accounts are classified as dormant when no transactions have been made for a prolonged period (generally one year), or if a statement or other official correspondence is returned as undeliverable. After between one and three years, the funds are transferred to a reserve account, usually earning a lesser rate of interest.

A growing number of financial institutions are using "NameSys" - a computer database that has been available since late 1998 - to track down customers with whom they've lost contact, but it currently enjoys a success rate of only about 60%.

To assist with the search for lost bank accounts, a Dormant Bank Accounts brochure produced by the British Bankers Association (BBA) is available at most High Street bank branch locations. A query form is attached, but be prepared to wait - responses typically take a few months. For further information contact the BBA at: 0171 216 8801; or visit their web site at: for a downloadable Dormant Bank Accounts Form

The Bank of England (0171 601 4878) can advise on any name changes that may have occurred over the years. To obtain phone numbers and addresses for many U.K. banks online, go to:

The National Association of Bank Customers (01291 430 009) is another good source of information, and may assist with searches for a nominal fee: National Association of Bank Customers, P.O. Box 15, Caldicot, Newport, NP6 4YD.

For assistance in tracking down a dormant Building Society account, or to get information on a society that has changed name or been acquired by another, the Building Societies Association (BSA) can help. Phone: 0171 437 0655.

Building Societies generally declare accounts abandoned after three years of no activity if the balance is less than 100; five years if the value is 100 or more.

Note Building Societies originated as member-owned organizations making loans on residential real estate. Many have recently demutualized, however, entitling members to shares in the new company.

The amounts involved are significant. Nearly 70,000 Alliance & Leicerster customers have failed to claim shares worth 100 million since the society's demutualization in 1997, for example.

Prompt action is required, as demutualized building societies and insurers are only required to hold unclaimed "windfall" shares for three years, after which they may be liquidated. The funds received are then held in trust for an additional nine years, but after that the company can reclaim the money as its own.

Listed below is contact information for several major building societies and insurers that have given up their mutuality:

Alliance & Leicester Shareholder Services / Carlton Park / Leicester LE9 5XX; Halifax Shareholder Services / Trinity Road / Halifax HX1 2HG / 0870 552 2566; Norwich Union / 0870 600 3952; Woolwich Shareholder Services / PO Box 796 / Sidcup, Kent DA14 6ZZ / 020 8308 8900; Birmingham Midshires 0845 302 9847; Bristol & West / 0117 943 7290.

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