$6m unclaimed, owners sought

ALMOST $6 million lies untouched waiting for Hunter residents to stake their claim.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is launching a campaign today to return the cash, which is mostly in dormant bank accounts, shares and life insurance.

About 13,500 individuals and businesses in the Hunter are owed an unclaimed total of $5,750,410.68, while nationwide the total sits at a record $677 million.

Despite Australians recovering $56 million last year, the total has risen more than $40 million from 2011, with 33,000 parcels of money added to the database.

The commission has set up its MoneySmart website to help people reclaim missing cash. Hunter residents can find missing cash by entering their family or business name.

ASIC senior executive Robert Drake said the campaign was run annually but this year the commission would use technology to greater effect.

"This is the first time we will have used social media in such a big way," he said.

"Social media spreads things very quickly and it's a way for people to share their success. It's like winning the lottery."

ASIC is urging people to harness the use of Facebook and Twitter by posting and sharing the website's link and using the hashtag #findmoney to get the ball rolling.

The Hunter's top 10 missing sums total $463,430.92 with the largest, $98,111.02, belonging to a Newcastle resident.

NSW has the most unclaimed money, about $271 million, followed by Victoria at about $142 million and overseas residents with almost $86 million.

The largest amount missing is in a dormant bank account in Carlisle, Western Australia, totalling $992,750.

"Some of the amounts could easily go back 20 to 30 years. There's no time frame. It sits there forever waiting for people to claim," Mr Drake said.

You may have unclaimed money if you moved without leaving a forwarding address; haven't made a transaction on your cheque or savings account for over seven years; stopped making payments on a life insurance policy; have noticed that regular dividend or interest cheques have stopped coming; or were executor of a deceased estate.

Log on to the website, follow the link to unclaimed money, and type your name. If you find money that you think might be yours, you will need to prove the money belongs to you or that you are the beneficiary.

Information on how to make a claim is available on the website.

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