Imagine receiving a phone call, out of the blue, telling you that you are owed a large amount of money. Would you believe the person on the other side of the line?
Now, I know scammers try to use this technique. However, it is a possibility. They tell you that one of a number of large financial institutions has unclaimed shares or pension funds with your name on them. But, you argue, I’ve never invested with any of those companies! The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Thousands of South Africans are owed millions. And, most don’t even know about it.
How could you not know you’re owed money?
Most people firmly believe that when they leave a company, they are only entitled to what they personally paid into their pension fund. The truth is, you are legally entitled to the entire amount, including your company’s contribution.
Many employees were never aware of which company their pension funds were registered with, hence their surprise. But there are many ways in which you could have accumulated money, without being aware of it.
Has the following happened without you even knowing it?
• You might have taken out an endowment fund with your bond, but later cancelled this fund.
• You have been a beneficiary of an estate, but the records might not have been adequate for trustees to find you.
• Or, you may have been unaware that you were entitled to claim pension or provident funds, and they may still be waiting for you.
• You may have been awarded shares during Old Mutual and Sanlam’s demutualisation process.
• Furthermore, your details may have been lost or misplaced. Little things can throw the system. If you changed names as the result of a marriage, they may still be searching for you under an old name.
Independent research has shown that about one in every four families is probably owed money, and the task of tracking down millions of South Africans is not an easy one.
Someone out there is searching for you
A company called Benefit Recovery Services Pty Ltd (BRS) look for such people. Financial services companies, labour unions and the government provide them with the names of beneficiaries, and BRS then calls these people, and tries to reconcile them with their money. The process is very time consuming, which is why companies don’t simply do it themselves.
The company does not charge you as the beneficiary, – BRS are paid based on each successful reconciliation. So you won’t have to lose a chunk out of your potential payout.
How to ensure they can find you or that they are not scammers
You don’t want to respond to scammers and you don’t want to lose out because of cut-off dates. For example, Old Mutual has a window period of three to five years on certain funds, after which, your money could end up being distributed among the other, more easily traceable beneficiaries. You could lose out entirely if you don’t register.
So, if you suspect that you might be owed shares, pension fund surplus, or any other monies, You can view a list here.
Some insurance companies like Old Mutual have a platform where you can check if they owe you money. Good luck!