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New sites help savers cash in on forgotten funds

Jan 22,2018
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A 35-year-old man surnamed Bae hardly remembered that he made a bank account with Standard Chartered Bank Korea ten years ago, nor the fact that he placed some 20,000 won ($18.80) in there. But when he came across “finding lost bank accounts” on a list of the most popular search terms at the end of last year, he gave it a try and was reunited with his long-lost money.

Bae is one of a growing number of people that have benefited from the government’s initiative to find forgotten bank accounts at financial institutions as the growing amount of dormant money incurs maintenance costs. The move has taken off, with millions of people accessing the service and tens of billions of won reclaimed.

A site designed to track unclaimed insurance even froze for several days after its launch on Dec. 18 last year because of the huge number of visitors.

The Financial Supervisory Service is spearheading the efforts to collect information about bank accounts or credit card registration, while the Financial Services Commission is at the helm of the project to reunite clients with unclaimed insurance.

The service for tracing dormant bank accounts has been around since 2015, but the Financial Supervisory Service recently expanded the scope of the offering on an integrated platform - https://www.payinfo.or.kr/account.html.

The website, introduced in December, offers subscription information for bank accounts, credit card and loans. Users are able to move deposits from inactive accounts to other banks and delete the unused ones.

The watchdog plans to extend their services to include savings banks and securities companies in August and launch a mobile platform in February.

An average of 77,000 people visit the site and track their accounts every day, according to the Financial Supervisory Service. Between Dec. 19 and 31, a total of 925,000 people flocked to the site and canceled 320,000 bank accounts holding 32.4 billion won.

The endeavor came as an increasing amount of cash is languishing in forgotten accounts. More than 1.4 trillion won is held in inactive bank accounts as of June last year, according to the Financial Supervisory Service.

The tech-savvy public is responding to the move as the services launched by the financial regulators often emerged on the most-searched words list on major portal sites Naver and Daum.

When the Financial Services Commission launched a site that allows people to trace forgotten insurance on Dec.18, it went down for hours due to heavy traffic.

The site handled 1.8 million people’s requests and more than 500 billion won was reclaimed as of Jan. 17, according to a source at the financial regulator.

When this reporter accessed the site on Dec. 26, it still appeared to be having trouble handing the flood of visitors.

A notification explained that 1,498 people were waiting to go on the site.

Once the reporter entered the site, it took about five minutes to see the result after completing a certification process using a phone number and public authentication system.

Unfortunately, there was not a single penny to be reclaimed.

The requirement for the public authentication system and a set of security programs makes it hard for foreigners to use the service, said a source at Korea Life Insurance Association that jointly operates the insurance reclaiming service.

“We could consider opening the service for expats if there is demand,” the source said, “but for now, foreigners can’t use the service because of the issue related to the identity certification process.”

The Financial Services Commission said that 7.4 trillion won worth of insurance remains unclaimed.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]