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Political Information Last Updated: Jan 14, 2020 - 12:07:47 PM

Australian pensioners and savers have bank accounts raided by government
By Filip K
Jun 12, 2014 - 9:02:48 AM

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Australian pensioners and savers have bank accounts raided by government

The federal government has bagged an unprecedented $360 million from household bank accounts since a controversial change to unclaimed money laws, figures from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show.

Pensioners and others saving for a rainy day have reported trying to access their savings only to discover their money had been seized by the government because it had been dormant for three years or more.

The government has collected more money from inactive bank accounts under the three-year rule than the total amount captured in the past five decades combined.

Nearly $360 million from 80,000 accounts was funnelled into government coffers in the year to May after Labor lowered the threshold, eclipsing the $330 million netted between 1959 and 2012, during which time idle accounts could only be touched after seven years.

The Treasury now looks poised to raise the threshold in the face of fierce lobbying from the banking industry, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann releasing a discussion paper on changing the definition of inactivity from three years to five. Such a change would halve the number of inactive accounts taken by the government each year, he said.

“These changes caused substantial disruption to account holders … and to industry, with businesses forced to rapidly implement new and costly systems. We want to reduce the regulatory burden of these laws.”

Unclaimed money seized from ‘inactive’ bank accounts

ASIC unclaimed money

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said the legislation was a “rushed” budget-boosting exercise that angered customers whose accounts were in fact not lost or forgotten. “We have grandparents who put money aside for their grandkids’ future … and farmers who have set aside money for a rainy day, but it was transferred to the government,” he said.

He dismissed suggestions the banks wanted to reduce the flow of money to shore up their revenue. “To you or I, hundreds of millions of dollars might be a lot of money, but when you’re looking at the funding level of banks, it’s all trivial.”

But consumer group Choice said it supported the three-year provision because high bank fees could “eat away” at inactive accounts.

“Extending the period of time unclaimed money could remain in an inactive account … is not in a consumer’s best interests. Missing money shouldn’t be whittled away by industry through penalties and fees,” said spokesman Tom Godfrey.

ASIC said the chief purpose of the laws was to reunite people with lost accounts before funds were eroded by fees, charges and inflation. It refused to detail how much had been successfully claimed in the past year, but in 2012 ASIC returned $62 million, of which $33 million was from inactive bank accounts.

Kim Taylor, a marketing consultant from Randwick, deposited a few thousand dollars into an ING account with the intention of leaving it aside and letting it accumulate interest. Now the balance sits at zero.

”I wanted the money to sit there as a maternity leave thing. I left it there thinking that’s my little luxury nest egg. I have four children under the age of nine, and I work full-time; getting the paperwork sorted to get the money back has been painful.”

Top 20 banks to have customer funds raided

Money seized from Australian bank accounts

Connie Franze, 68, and her son Vince, 45, are trying to reclaim their life savings of more than $12,000 that was taken by the government last June. ”I saved for 45 years … It was my carer’s pension and his disability pension,” said the retiree from Hurstville.

Ms Franze opened the Commonwealth Bank account 45 years ago, squirrelling away a small portion of her $50-a-week earnings from growing and selling plants. The pair were saving for a trip to Italy to visit her mother.

”She was 100 years old. I wanted to take money out. They wouldn’t give me the money … [and then] my mother died this year. The last time I saw her was 20 years ago.”

Last Wednesday, Edward Manning, 62 of Oakdale, reclaimed a “substantial” sum that had been transferred to the government in March. The Citibank account held his inheritance. “For two months we had to draw back on our mortgage and the mortgage has increased … It was frustrating,” he said.

The amounts seized from individual accounts range from a few cents to close to $2 million, although more than 90 per cent are worth less than $5000.


Nine accounts, all seized in June last year, were worth more than $1 million each. One woman from Caulfield, Victoria, has lost nearly $5 million across five different accounts.

The public can conduct quick, free searches for lost money on ASIC’s MoneySmart website. It can scoop up records of unclaimed money from bank accounts, life insurance policies and company shares.

If you find money that is yours, approach the bank to have the claim verified. The bank will notify ASIC. Owners are paid interest on lost money based on the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, payable from July 1 last year. No tax has to be paid on the interest earned.

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  1. Ian Williams Reply
    Just wait until they use the bail-in procedures already in the statute books...the elites want "their" money and "their" world and "their" resources...its their divine right of course...or their Darwinian prerogative...I am not sure which at times...survival of the fittest and all that...wot!
    • Tom Reply
      Don't make light of what should be called robbery. Governments around the world today are getting above themselves and need to be smacked right down - at the elections of course.
  2. robertsgt40 Reply
    "But consumer group Choice said it supported the three-year provision because high bank fees could “eat away” at inactive accounts." So rather than nickel and dime them to death, just go for the throat and steal it all at once? Good reasoning.
  3. Ian Williams Reply
    Why are there "high bank fees" on inactive accounts? Surely fees are finagled from the fools to cover "costs" - which are of course negligible on an inactive deposit - in fact, it could be argued the bank is doing very well out of these deposits through fiat chicanery. This is just another orchestrated raid on depositors to encourage longer term fixed deposits rather than savings accounts, which can then be expropriated under the now established protocol of stealing deposits to shore up the Banking System (aka BS). One of these days, the people of this world (apart from the Muslims and Amish) will wake up to the sin of usury and realize that it is the treadmill and work wheel of the Western World and that due to the "miracle" of compounding interest, means that the house is the only real winner in this game. Interest is the life blood of the business behemoth of banking - don't borrow, don't pay interest, don't feed the Beast and it will fall. The only reason why it continues to exist at all is that people are CONvinced that the system which we have is the way it works and that in essence there is no alternative but to tinker with it and try and find someone to blame to hang it all German Jewish Bankers...and all this is not going to end well...the blame game has to your part...stop buying crap...stop paying interest...throw you smart phone personal irradiation device in the dunny where it belongs and...turn off the TV...shut off the WIFI...don't use your microwave...and most of all...don't buy junk food...and then have a good, long, hard look in the mirror at the real sorry, failing flesh...

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