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Who wants to be a millionaire: The unclaimed money edition

Updated 19 Oct 2018 – By Caitlyn Ng

One of the questions which you frequently hear (or get asked) in a circle of friends is, “What would you do if you had a million Ringgit to spend?” The answers would run the gamut from helping the needy and starting a business, to travelling the world and buying properties. Whatever the dream may be, it remains just that for many people: only a dream.

However, if you have been following the news recently, there were some Malaysians who received an unexpected cash windfall and it wasn’t through sheer luck. It was all thanks to their forgetfulness! The Star newspaper reported that to date, there was roughly RM5.779bil worth of unclaimed money, involving 55 million records dating back to 1977.

The largest amount that the Registrar of Unclaimed Money has ever had to return to an individual was almost RM6mil (thanks to the multiple forgotten accounts)! On the other hand, the smallest amount returned to an individual was 39 sen.

According to Datuk Lee Chee Leong who is the Deputy Finance Minister, under Section 8 of the Unclaimed Moneys Act 1965, any account (eg matured fixed deposit, insurance payouts, savings account or current account) that has been inactive or left dormant for more than seven years will have its funds considered as ‘unclaimed money’ and the balance will be surrendered to the Registrar.

“Unclaimed money, in simpler terms, is money that has failed to be given to its rightful owner. There is also a common misconception that owners continue to earn interest on unclaimed money, which is false, as the money that will be refunded will have no addition or deduction from the original amount, in accordance with Section 11(3) of Act,” he said.

How do I check if I have any unclaimed money?

First off, as there is no deadline or expiry date of the funds set by the Government, there is no need for you to panic. Make your way to the Accountant-General’s Department office in Menara Maybank, Kuala Lumpur, where you will then be given a queue number to the Registrar of Unclaimed Money counter.

Alternatively, the Accountant-General’s Department has an additional 36 counters open throughout the country to handle the system of checking and refunding unclaimed monies. Malaysians can go through the entire process directly from the Registrar’s office free of charge.

One thing to take note of is the limited amount of numbers that is given out daily at each office. There will only be 400, of which 100 is allocated for senior citizens, the disabled and expectant mothers, whereas the remaining 300 will be for others not in the aforementioned categories.

As further reported by The Star, there were people who would wait in line before the offices’ opening time of 8am, as evidenced by a visitor in George Town only known as Melvin. He was waiting at George Town’s Komtar building around 5am, but wasn’t even the first in line. You would thus need to be prepared to wait as early as possible for your chance to receive a number.

To facilitate the public’s checking of funds and applying for refunds, the Government is also in the midst of developing an online system, which will surely be a welcome relief from the current archaic method.

I do have some funds I’d forgotten about, what can I do to claim them?

As the checking process can only be performed for the account holder personally, you only need your identity card and original documents such as the bankbook if the unclaimed funds belong to you. Any unclaimed amount will then be transferred over to the preferred active account of your choice within one month. Otherwise, you would need to prepare additional relevant documents if you are the next-of-kin, such as a letter of administration to the estate issued by the High Court.

A more detailed how-to guide is shown below, courtesy of The Star Online:

Okay, what am I going to do with all this extra cash on hand?

Let’s say you have a couple of forgotten accounts which have netted you a substantial amount of funds. Before you lose control of your emotions and with it, your rational thinking, you would be better off putting the money aside temporarily. It can be in a relatively liquid account such as a savings account, at least until you have your thoughts in order.

Start by asking yourself a few straightforward questions on what your financial needs and goals are:

1) Do you need to pay off any outstanding debts (credit card, student loan, home loan, etc)?

2) Do you have enough money set aside in your ‘rainy day’ fund?

3) Do you need to add more funds to your retirement savings?

4) Do you have any plans to quit your job and start up your own business?

5) Do you want to purchase your first property, or invest/upgrade with a second one?

It’s very easy to get carried away when faced with a sudden cash windfall. As long as you’ve taken care of the more pressing matters first, there is no reason not to spend a portion on something you have had your eye on for a long time. If you plan well, such as how to invest RM1mil in properties, and control the urge to spend excessively, you would have financial security and comfort for many years to come.

We leave you with a friendly reminder to dig up any old account documents stashed away in a drawer somewhere, so that you will be able to check on them and retrieve the money that is rightfully yours. Remember, there are still billions left unclaimed, and you might have a share in it!

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