Questions of Cash: 'Was I a winner while my bonds were stolen?'

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The Independent Online

Q. I read your article on premium bond fraud ('Premium bond victim finds she's out of luck', Save & Spend, 14 August).

Q. I read your article on premium bond fraud ( click here to read). I was in a similar situation myself, where my bonds were cashed by someone else. I found out much later and National Savings & Investments assured me I would not have won any prizes in the meantime. How can NS&I confirm that a bondholder's premium bonds would or would not have won prizes after the bonds were cashed?
GM, Folkestone.

A. "Premium bond numbers are not programmed into or stored in Ernie, so no numbers can be left out of a draw," says Wendy Franklin, a spokeswoman for National Savings & Investments. "Instead, Ernie generates numbers randomly and these numbers are then checked against eligible bond numbers. NS&I can check a customer's bond numbers against draws that have taken place in the past and, in an instance where bonds have been stolen and fraudulently encashed, NS&I would, once this case has been fully investigated and the bonds reinstated, credit retrospectively any prizes the bonds may have won after being encashed fraudulently."

Q. I am in the process of selling my BT and MMO2 shares. In order to do this, several months ago I sent my original share certificates to the Stamp Office, which lost them. To sell the shares I had to pay £68 for replacement certificates, but I have been unable to get the Stamp Office to meet these costs.
Can you help? GL, by e-mail.

A. The Stamp Office is the part of the Inland Revenue that administers stamp duty, including on the purchase of shares. There is no reason why the Stamp Office should be sent original share certificates and the Revenue is very clear that it does not want to receive them. Given that it is your misunderstanding that led to the certificates being sent to the wrong place it is unrealistic to expect the Revenue to pay compensation to you.

Q. I read in William Kay's column ( Save & Spend, 7 August) that Policy Portfolio and Beale Dobie are withdrawing from the traded endowment market. What does this mean for my prospects for selling my Barclays Life endowment plan? This has run since 1992, with premiums of £82 monthly, maturing in 2013, with a sum assured of £33,000. I wish to sell this policy, but the surrender value is just £9,500.
IP, Wembley.

A. The traded endowment policy (TEP) market was already weak and traders say the withdrawal of these two buyers is unlikely to have a major impact. Ernie Hayes at Surrenda-link - a market maker, which buys endowments on behalf of investors - says: "TEP prices have been low for some time - and therefore attractive to new investors. The reason Beale Dobie and Policy Portfolio withdrew from the market is because retail demand has been low and therefore their purchasing has been low. The effect is a consolidation of market makers, rather than on price."

Your own situation is grim. You have paid over £12,000 for a policy now worth much less than this. But you cannot take advantage of the TEP market, which trades with-profits policies, not unit trust plans such as yours. You will either have to bail out and take the loss, or cling on and hope that things get better. In retrospect, using a unit trust endowment was a bad move and if it was the result of advice from the seller then you may have grounds for a mis-selling complaint.

Q. In June, I made a claim under my American Express card protection policy after my wife's purse was stolen, claiming for the £80 cost of issuing replacement passports and for £200 cash. I reported the theft to the police and card issuers, but was unable to formally report it to AmEx as the AmEx representatives I spoke to could not deal with it and the number I was given by them rang unobtainable. When I formally reported the theft on my return, AmEx told me I was out of time because I had not reported the theft within 24 hours.
RP, Bristol.

A. AmEx has accepted your claim and you will receive payment in full.

Q. We live in a semi-detached house owned by a housing association, which wants to sell off some of its properties. The homes need modernising, but being located in commuting distance to Cambridge it may be possible to buy and renovate our property for £150,000 and sell it for about £185,000. I could manage the renovation and sell the property, sharing the profits with an investor. My problem is that I am self-employed, with no spare cash. Do you think this is a project an investor might be interested in?
PM, Cambridgeshire.

A. Ray Boulger of mortgage advisers Charcol, says: "This will be very difficult to do. Buy-to-let would not be viable for this. It's a commercial mortgage transaction. For most of these you need 25 per cent deposit. I think the reader could only do it by forming a partnership with people who have money to invest. But it would be very difficult to find the investors."

We would add that even if you could find a source of investment, this may be on terms which open you to excessive risk. Some mortgage brokers have offered loans to social housing tenants with little or no capital in order to take advantage of discounted sale prices, but it may then be to the lender's advantage to repossess the property for re-sale if the home buyer has repayment difficulties, leaving the borrower in a very bad financial situation.

* If you have questions, write to Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail We can reply only to letters published. Please send copies, not originals.

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