Lost savings: could you be sitting on a forgotten windfall?

The My Lost Account service could reunite you with your money. Photograph: PA
The My Lost Account service could reunite you with your money. Photograph: PA
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Feeling a bit short of cash with Christmas coming up? You may be richer than you think, as many people are sitting on savings pots they’ve long forgotten about.

While the idea of a windfall suddenly appearing out of nowhere may seem far-fetched, it’s actually thought that households are sitting on billions of pounds-worth of lost savings. One in seven of us think we’ve lost track of a financial product, such as a current account, Isa or another type of savings account, premium bonds, or children’s savings, according to a survey from savings provider NS&I.

Meanwhile, calculations released by the Association of British Insurers show an estimated 1.6 million lost pension pots worth nearly £20 billion could remain unclaimed. Here’s a look at why we’re losing track of all this money – and how you could get it back.

Why are we leaving cash scattered?

Forgetting to redirect post if you’ve moved house, or moving jobs could increase the likelihood of forgetting savings accounts or pension pots. With the average person having around 11 different jobs over their lifetime, and moving home eight times, it’s easy to see how paperwork can get lost over time. And while the rise in technology may help us remember what money we’ve got, it can also pose its own problems.

NS&I’s research found that forgetting passwords and log-in codes was a common reason for people losing track of financial products.

So how can you track down lost savings?

There are various ways to track down lost money, depending on the type of financial product. If you know who the provider is, the simplest way may be to contact them directly, digging out any evidence you have such as old policy numbers and addresses.

There are also free-to-use services available which could help to track down your cash. The UK Government has a free pension tracing service which can be found at gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. You’ll need the name of an employer or a pension provider to use the service.

Or if you’ve lost track of money held with a bank, building society or with NS&I, which is backed by the Treasury, the My Lost Account service could reunite you with your cash: MyLostAccount.org.uk.

Is there anything else you should consider?

Scammers may promise large amounts of money or other valuables, and persuade victims to part with their own money as ‘fees’ for their release. In reality, these windfalls don’t exist.

Detective Chief Inspector Alex Hayman, of the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, says: “We often see reports where unsuspecting victims have been tricked into parting with their cash, on the promise of a large sum of money in return. This type of fraud is known as ‘advance-fee fraud’ and it is important that the public are able to spot the signs to avoid falling victim.

“If you are contacted out of the blue by someone you don’t know, who says you are the beneficiary of an unexpected amount of cash, be suspicious and never respond to any communication especially where you are asked to send a sum of money.

“Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, it’s usually right to question it.”