Lost Fortunes: The Hidden World of Unclaimed Bank Balances

by Sep 1, 2023Financial Research

In May 2023 a lucky soul in Jamaica struck gold by winning the lottery. Their fortune, a ticket to dreams, had granted them the possibility of a lifetime. However, the clock was ticking, and they had until the looming arrival of August to seize their riches.

As I thought about this unfortunate soul missing out on their riches, I decided to probe deeper into unclaimed funds in Jamaica. 

The latest unclaimed bank balances have recently been published by the Ministry of Finance. Do you or someone you may know have money sitting in a bank untouched?

The listing for March 2023 is located on the MoF website here : https://www.mof.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/Unclaimed-Mar-2023.pdf and only contains bank balances for those who have accounts at National Commercial Bank (NC). The previous version for March 2020 is located here: https://www.mof.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/Unclaimed-bank-balances-march-2020.pdf and contains information on unclaimed funds from:

  • Sagicor Bank
  • MF&G Trust
  • Citi Bank
  • First Caribbean Bank

Section 126 of the Banking Services Act of Jamaica states that if money is left unclaimed for 15 years or more in a deposit taking institution[1], then after a year of it being published in the paper the money will become part of the revenues of Jamaica. Once it is transferred to the government, persons have up to 15 years to claim the funds if they can establish proof that it belongs to them.

When was the last time you checked your bank account? Most of us monitor our finances regularly, but did you know that there are billions of dollars in unclaimed bank balances worldwide? Not only do bank balances go unclaimed, but insurance benefits, pension benefits and dividend payouts also go uncollected as well!

In March 2023, $5.4 million in unclaimed funds was available from NCB and in 2020 among all the institutions listed above $15 billion was available, so you can imagine that the current value of unclaimed funds has since grown! The money that is out there for you or a loved one to collect could be life-changing !

Let’s understand a little more about unclaimed funds. 

Understanding Unclaimed Bank Balances

Unclaimed bank balances, also known as dormant accounts, refer to funds held in bank accounts that have had no activity or contact with the account holder for an extended period of time. This can occur for various reasons:

  1. Change of Contact Information: If you move or change your contact details without updating your bank, the bank might lose touch with you. This can lead to your account being declared dormant.
  2. Inactive Accounts: If you have multiple accounts and don’t use one for an extended period, the bank might classify it as inactive.
  3. Forgotten Accounts: It’s easy to forget about old accounts, especially if you’ve changed banks or jobs.
  4. Deceased Account Holders: When someone passes away, their bank accounts might be forgotten if their family or heirs are unaware of their existence.

Preventing Unclaimed Bank Balances

  1. Regular Account Review: Make it a habit to review your bank statements and account activity. This can help you spot any discrepancies or unaccounted funds.
  2. Update Contact Information: Whenever you change your address, phone number, or email, remember to update your bank as well.
  3. Consolidate Accounts: If you have multiple accounts, consider consolidating them. Fewer accounts are easier to manage and monitor.
  4. Power of Attorney: Designate a trusted person to manage your financial affairs in case you become unable to do so yourself. Ensure this is a trustworthy person.

Reclaiming Unclaimed Funds

If you suspect you have unclaimed funds, there are steps you can take to reclaim them:

  1. Government Resources: The Jamaican government has mechanisms in place to help you find unclaimed funds. Visit the Ministry of Finance website or contact relevant departments to inquire about unclaimed property databases and the necessary steps to reclaim them. 
  1. Financial Institutions: Banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions might also hold unclaimed funds. Reach out to your bank and inquire about any dormant accounts linked to your name.
  1. Insurance Companies: If you suspect you have unclaimed insurance benefits, contact insurance companies you’ve dealt with in the past. Unredeemed policies or forgotten claims could be a potential source of unclaimed funds. 
  1. Legal Assistance: In some cases, seeking legal assistance might be necessary, especially if you’re dealing with complex estates or inheritance matters. Consult legal experts to navigate the legal procedures of claiming unclaimed funds.
  1. Search the Web! A google search for unclaimed funds in Jamaica may take you a far way. Here are a few I was able to locate:

Unclaimed Listings

Conclusion: Unclaimed funds are a hidden opportunity for Jamaicans to rediscover financial assets they might have long forgotten. By taking proactive steps to uncover and reclaim these funds, you can potentially improve your financial situation and achieve greater peace of mind. So, take the time to investigate, inquire, and unlock the hidden treasure that could make a positive difference in your life.

 P.S. I still don’t know what happens to unclaimed lottery money! 

[1] A DTI in this case can be a bank or merchant bank – 9 of which are under the supervision of the Bank of Jamaica. Building Societies are excluded.