Unclaimed Shares

Reporter: David Richardson

It sits in massive government slush funds-buried treasure in every state and territory. Unclaimed bank accounts, lost superannuation policies, life insurance policies never cashed in. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Now to that list add shares and dividends.

"Much of it is because shareholders move and don't let the company know where they are. So effectively the shares fall down a hole. They stay with the company for a couple of years then they go into this huge slush fund of government," Claire Doherty from the Australian Shareholders Association told Today Tonight.

If you add it all up almost a million Australians have half a billion dollars sitting around waiting to be claimed. The latest $42-million surge comes from two companies - concrete maker RINKER and money manager AXA.

Both companies have handed registers over to ASIC having lost contact with thousands of investors and they have money just sitting there and it could be yours."The situation with Rinker is there is a decision which says that those people who owned Rinker shares, some of them might be entitled to more money," says Claire Doherty.And it's relatively easy to claim.

"It depends what you've lost. If you've lost your shares in a takeover and you've never collected the proceeds of those that's relatively simple. There's an Australian government website set up to search for that. If you've lost the proceeds of your dividends that's a bit more difficult. You need to search for them in the state where they got lost. Where that company was headquartered" she added.

But there's a catch with Rinker. An application for lost shares or dividends must be in by tomorrow. But if the claim isn't contested, you could be in for a nice Christmas bonus.

For more information:

ASIC website: www.fido.gov.au

The Australian Shareholders Association also runs a help site: www.asa.asn.au

Unclaimed cash can be checked through each state office of revenue.