Has this happened to you?
Millions of Australians have lost money somewhere along the line. It could be a small super account from that temporary job you did years ago, a bank account you forgot you had or share dividends you never claimed. There are lots of ways this could have happened. Some of the most common are:
- Moving to a new house or overseas, without advising your forwarding address to everybody.
- Having a bank account that you haven’t transacted on for quite a while.
- Having multiple jobs, with small amounts of super in many different default funds.
- Losing track of investments, or not cashing dividend cheques.
- Stopping payments on a life insurance policy
Unfortunately, there’s no one place to search for it all, but you need to start somewhere. Here’s a few of the best places to find lost money:
ASIC’s moneysmart website has some great information on unclaimed money. Go to https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/find-unclaimed-money to find out more.
According to ASIC, there is now over $1.1 billion unclaimed money in Australia and ASIC is making a concerted effort to help people reunite with their cash.
Unclaimed money received by ASIC is transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund but is available to be claimed at any time by the rightful owner and there is now no time limit on claims.
Bank accounts become unclaimed after 7 years if the account is inactive (no deposits or withdrawals). Life insurance policies become unclaimed 7 years after the policy matures and is not claimed. Dividends from shares and other investments can be classified as unclaimed in as little as 2 years.
You can search for unclaimed money directly from the Moneysmart website, but this only covers certain types of unclaimed money administered by ASIC of behalf of the Commonwealth. From 1 July 2013, interest is payable on most unclaimed money administered by ASIC, but not at particularly attractive rates.
If your name is listed on ASIC’s unclaimed money search as a ‘gazette’ record, this means a company has sent ASIC your name but not the money. In this case, you will need to get in contact with the company directly and they will tell you how you can claim the money. The Moneysmart website has contact details listed for these companies.
Lost super is administered by the ATO. You can search for lost superannuation by registering for the Australian Taxation Office’s online services via myGov. By creating a myGov account and linking it to the ATO, you can then find details of all your super accounts, which may include any you have lost track of. Once you find lost super, you can roll it over into a super account of your choice. Before consolidating, it may be wise to check you will not lose valuable insurance.
State governments hold unclaimed money from a variety of sources. This can include deceased estates, share dividends, salaries and wages, cheques, trust money, over-payments, proceeds of sale and many more.
Up to date links to the various state government websites are on the Moneysmart website, but as a starting point, you can go here:
- ACT – Public Trustee and Guardian for the ACT
- NSW – NSW Office of State Revenue
- Northern Territory – Northern Territory Treasury
- Queensland – Public Trustee of Queensland
- South Australia – SA Department of Treasury and Finance
- Tasmania – Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance
- Victoria – State Revenue Office Victoria
- Western Australia – WA Department of Treasury
Different State Government agencies can hold different types of money. Also, the funds will not necessarily reside with the State Government where you live now, or where you lived when you lost it. Rather, it will depend on where the funds originated. For example, a company which is located in NSW will most likely send all unclaimed dividends to the NSW State Government, regardless of where the shareholder lives.
Sometimes an employer owes wages to an employee who has left their business and can’t be contacted. Or an employer might have to pay outstanding wages because the Fair Work Ombudsman contacted them as part of a campaign, completed an audit or helped them to do an audit of their records and found that one or more former employees have been underpaid.
Funds collected from unpaid wages are administered by the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can search for unpaid wages at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/helping-the-community/search-for-unpaid-wages.
Recovering your money for a fee
There are many companies out there who will search for unclaimed money on your behalf for a fee. While this may be worthwhile, it’s probably better to have a go yourself first and save yourself the cost – it can be surprisingly quick and easy to conduct the search, especially if you know what you’re looking for.