$1.1 billion pot: Do you have lost shares to claim?

Lost stocks, dividends and bank accounts are just sitting there. Here’s how to get your hands on your piece of the billion-dollar pie.

Happy young man and woman throwing dividend cash into air in front of orange background

Image source: Getty Images

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) wants everyone to know its holding onto $1.1 billion for Australians to claim.

The “unclaimed money” stash includes dividends and shares that have lost touch with their rightful owners.

“This can happen when people change address or go overseas and forget to update their details with a financial institution or company,” states ASIC.

“Or people may be unaware there is money to which they have a rightful claim.”

Lost bank accounts, insurance payouts and investments are also in the pool, officially called the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund.

“Bank accounts become unclaimed after 7 years if the account is inactive,” the corporate regulator states.

“Life insurance policies become unclaimed 7 years after the policy matures and is not claimed.”

Amazingly, the government will pay interest for any period your money’s been parked in the unclaimed fund after 1 July 2013.

The interest rate is based on the consumer price index, so you could get as much as 2.93% for the 2015 financial year. The current financial year will earn you 2.19%.

That’s not bad, considering banks will only pay you a fraction of a percent in a savings account these days.

How to claim your piece of the $1.1 billion pie

Luckily it’s easy to check whether you have unclaimed money, as ASIC hosts a search engine for exactly that purpose.

“It is available to be claimed at any time by the rightful owner and there is no time limit on claims,” states the corporate watchdog.

If you find money from a lost bank account, you should approach the financial institution directly to get your hands on it.

But if you have lost shares or other investments showing up, your next step will depend on the situation:

  • If the shares are marked “company money”, ASIC is holding it. So you’ll need to provide proof of ownership to ASIC.
  • If the shares are marked “company gazette”, the company is holding it. So you’ll need to contact the company.
  • For other circumstances, such as when a deregistered company or a deceased person is involved, refer to further advice from ASIC.

Don’t ever pay someone to search for unclaimed money

ASIC warns of third party agents that will offer to find unclaimed money on your behalf for a commission or flat fee.

But any ‘middleman’ service provider is probably just using the same ASIC database.

“If a private money search company approaches you to find money for you for a fee, remember that you can search unclaimed money for free on the Moneysmart website.”

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