How do I track down an old savings account?

Q: I found an old passbook of my parents, from Mellon PSFS. How can I check to see if it is active?

A: If you have ever watched any of those "cold case" detective shows, you will know that the more time has passed, the harder it becomes to track down leads. Then again, those same programs suggest that it is not impossible to warm up a cold case now and then.

The cold case analogy comes to mind is that this account may be quite old. According to the FDIC web site, Mellon Bank PSFS has been inactive since January 1, 1991, but there is a successor institution called BNY Mellon. The FDIC number for BNY Mellon is 7946. Because bank names are often quite similar to each other, this FDIC number might be useful in making sure that you are contacting the right institution.

When you contact BNY Mellon, be sure to have the account number from the passbook. Just be prepared for the fact that the bank may have changed the numbering system for savings accounts at some point over the past 20 or more years. Ideally, you should try to speak to someone who has been at the bank long enough to know some of the history involved, and can help you trace what might have happened to this account.

If your parents are deceased or otherwise have not been in contact with the bank for a long time, the FDIC advises that savings accounts and other unclaimed property are sometimes transferred to the state where the bank is located. The FDIC lists two websites where you might be able to track down such unclaimed property: unclaimed.org and missingmoney.com.

While it is worth checking with BNY Mellon and these unclaimed property websites, it is entirely possible that your parents closed out this account years ago. Assuming you have been through their financial records, if all you found was a passbook and not any account statements, there is a good chance they closed this account. Understandably, your patience for conducting your investigation will depend greatly on whether you think there is a significant amount of money at stake.

It sounds as though the following advice is too late in your case, but for the benefit of other readers, this situation is a reminder that once your parents reach retirement age, it is a good idea for them to review their finances with a trusted family member. This should involve not just what their plans are, but also a complete inventory of all assets and sources of income (such as pension plans, etc.) That information could prevent those finances from turning into a cold case mystery in the future.

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