New website lists all dormant bank accounts
Although Kim had to wait 30 minutes to log in due to the heavy traffic on the site, he was able to find five dormant accounts under his name, including one he opened nearly 20 years ago as a college student. After just a few mouse clicks, he retrieved 170,000 won ($144) and transferred the money into his current account.
“Even though it was cumbersome to go through the authentication process, I am glad that I was able to find the money that’s been rotting for the past 20 years,” he said. “I want to recommend this to my parents.”
Many Koreans can attest to the effectiveness of this new service provided by Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute (KFTC).
Just four days after its launch on Dec. 9, nearly one million people had visited the site. A total of 900,000 dormant accounts were terminated and nearly 5.7 billion won ($4.81 million) was collected by users. Excluding the 200,000 dormant accounts with zero balances, each account had an average balance of 6,500 won.
During weekdays, around 300,000 individuals log into the website, causing traffic jams. To remedy this, Korea Federation of Banks and KFTC recommend users visit the website from noon to 2 p.m. when the traffic is low. “We knew the website would receive a positive response but we didn’t expect this many visitors from early on,” an official from Financial Services Commission said.
“I think word of mouth is spreading quickly that they can retrieve the money hidden away all these years.”
What’s appealing about the service is that without having to visit brick-and-mortar banks, users can access all the accounts created under their name with just few mouse clicks. The FSC said the infrastructure is the first of its kind in the world.
Account holders can access the service at www.accountinfo.or.kr. Any account with no activity for the past year and a balance under 300,000 won can be terminated after the user transfers the money to a current account. The 500 won remittance fee is waived until Dec. 31, 2017. By user discretion, the money can also be donated.
For now, the service is only provided via online and smartphone usage is limited. But the FSC says it will launch a smartphone-based service starting next April. For elderly users who may find it difficult to access their accounts, local banks can provide the service through their tellers. The 300,000 won balance ceiling will also be raised to 500,000 won, the FSC added.
While users can access any accounts under their name, even if they have forgotten the passwords for some of them, accounts with security limits don’t appear. Joint accounts are also excluded from the list.
“Fixed deposit accounts or accounts linked with stock or investment accounts cannot be closed out with the service,” the FSC explained. “Also the accounts that are suspended due to password errors are excluded as well, along with accounts that receive tax breaks. If users want to terminate these accounts, they would have to visit the actual banks.”
Those who donate the balances will receive tax benefits during the year-end tax settlement.
According to the Financial Supervisory Services (FSS), as much as 1.4 trillion won is sitting dormant in some 50 million inactive accounts.
The FSS launched a campaign from June 2015 to September 2016 to allow individuals to retrieve their money and returned 952.2 billion won to the owners.
“We still have over a trillion won sitting around waiting for the owners to claim,” said the FSS in a press release. “Nearly 200,000 people have accounts with balance over 1 million won that they don’t know about. To help them, we decided to launch another campaign from Friday to end of January next year.”
BY HAN AE-RAN, CHOI HYUNG-JO [email@example.com]
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