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Max Your Cash: Lost Money

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:32 UK time, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Half of people who've lost track of savings say they struggle to remember all the accounts they've opened over the years, 37% had moved house without telling the bank while 28% think they mislaid money from childhood.

In all, it's estimated there is more than £850m sitting in dormant accounts.

The service My Lost Account can trace old accounts in banks, building societies and National Savings & Investments (NS&I).

It's free and run by the British Bankers' Association, Building Societies Association and NS&I.

The least they can work with are your contact details, name, address and date of birth. But the more details you can give, like old surnames and addresses, the better.

The online form takes minutes to complete and you should hear back within three months. The bank, building society or NS&I will contact you directly and, if an account is found, you'll have to prove your identity to claim your cash.

A Government scheme, due to start later this year, could see money in accounts inactive for 15 years distributed to good causes. But, you'll still be able to reclaim any money in your account as it always belongs to you.

Pensions of the past

There's an incredible £3bn in lost and unclaimed pensions in the UK, so it's well worth checking if you've got a nice little nest egg waiting to be discovered.

If you remember the name of your employer or pension scheme, you could write to them. Or, you could contact the Government's Pension Tracing Service which carried out almost 65,000 successful searches last year.

It's free and will check 200,000 pension schemes to help put you in touch with any run by your former employer. The more details you give, the better the search.

You'll then need to contact the scheme's administrators to check if you were a member and what, if anything, you're entitled to.

If you don't have many details, there is company which can search using no more than your current and previous names and address and date of birth.

For a £25 fee, the Unclaimed Assets Register will check if you can be matched to any personal or private pension schemes, life policies, share dividends or unit trusts.

If a match is found, they'll tell you what it's for and who to contact. But only the provider can tell you if you have a claim and how much it's worth.

Premium prizes

Lucy met Paul Trotman, from Cardiff, whose mother Beryl Hearn had bought him premium bonds in 1957 - the same year that the first winning numbers were drawn.

He said: "My mother died in 2006 and whilst going through her papers we found that she obviously had some national savings and premium bonds in place.

"And I'd known that there were bonds that were purchased for myself in 1957 when I was born and also my parents purchased bonds for my kids when they were born."

He contacted NS&I who sent out forms asking for details such like name, date of birth and current and old addresses. Within three weeks, all the missing bonds were traced.

You can also trace lost premium bonds using the mylostaccount website.

If you lose track of your bonds, you won't know if you've won. £30m of premium bond prizes have never been claimed, including 20,000 in Wales worth over £1.1m.

The largest, for £5,000, dates back to June 2007 while a further 11 bond holders with less than a £10 stake have yet to collect their £1,000 winnings.

If you know your bond numbers, you can check if you've won on the NS&I website or by writing to: Premium Bonds, National Savings and Investments, Blackpool, FY3 9ZW. There's no time limit for claiming prizes.

Lotto

Finally, don't forget to check old lottery tickets. One bought in the Vale of Glamorgan is worth more than £96,000 but has to be claimed by 11 May.

You can check yours online or by calling the number on the back of the ticket.

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