When the burglars broke into my home, they stole my stack of Series I Savings Bonds (see previous post Lessons After A Burglary: Physical Security). I started buying paper savings bonds in 2001. I always knew they are replaceable in case they are lost or stolen, which is why I recorded all the serial numbers as soon as I received the bonds. However, knowing something is one thing, and doing it is quite another. Now I had the unfortunate opportunity to test how it really works.
If you just Gooogle “lost savings bonds” you will see the procedure is very clear. You fill out the FS Form 1048 from the Treasury Department. The instructions on the form are very detailed. You just need some patience to read them. The 1048 Form has room for 5 bonds. If you need more room to list more bonds, you put them on a continuation sheet FS Form 3500.
The 1048 Form asks for the issue date, the face amount, the serial number, and the registration details of each bond. It’s probably better to scan your bonds or take a picture of them when you still have them now so that you will have an electronic record of all that information. If you claim the bonds were stolen, the form asks whether a police report was filed and if yes, it asks you to attach a copy of the police report.
After you complete the 1048 form, don’t sign it yet. You have to take it to a financial institution and sign it in front of a certifying officer. The certifying officer will check your ID and vouch for you to the government. If your lost or stolen savings bonds had a co-owner, both owners must sign on the form in front of a certifying officer.
We made an appointment with a nearby Bank of America branch. We met a Senior Vice President there. He had never done it before but he agreed to do it for us. In addition to signing the form, he also had to put a stamp of the bank on the form. He explained to us they don’t do Medallion Signature Guarantee any more because it’s more of a securities industry program. He was able to put a Signature Guarantee Stamp on it. He explained to us they use the Signature Guarantee Stamp more for checks.
We mailed the signed forms on a Thursday to the Minneapolis address on the form. By the following Monday we received an email from the Treasury Department that they assigned a case number to our request.
Then the wait started.
Although I was confident the government would come through and replace the stolen bonds for us, it did cross my mind what would happen if the thieves somehow already cashed them. Chances are slim that the thieves were brazen enough to go into a bank with the stolen bonds and a forged ID but the consequences are severe if they were able to pull it off somehow. Let’s just say I would have to work another year if the government refuses to replace those bonds.
It was a long wait. I kept checking our TreasuryDirect accounts. If the government agrees to replace the bonds, the replacement will only be issued in electronic form into our TreasuryDirect accounts. Exactly three weeks after we mailed the forms, 17 days from the date they issued the case number, we received this email:
Subject: TreasuryDirect Announcement ? Conversion Opportunity
Check the Investor InBox section of your TreasuryDirect account for an important message. You’ll find valuable information about how to convert your paper savings bonds.
Thank you for using TreasuryDirect.
I went into the Investor InBox and I only found a message about converting paper savings bonds to electronic records. I still had no bonds in the account but it was a good sign they were doing something.
I breathed a sigh of relief the next day when I saw value in a new special linked account near the bottom of the screen called My Converted Bonds. Apparently they treat replacing stolen paper savings bonds as converting them from paper to electronic. I checked the bond listing against the forms I submitted. They matched perfectly.
I looked for ways to pull the bonds from the new linked account into my regular account but I couldn’t find how. I decided to just live with it.
Other than the heads-up about the “conversion opportunity” we received no other notification about our case having been resolved or where to look for the replacement bonds. The government doesn’t have much incentive to create a great user experience.
Other than making a long list of the stolen bonds, going to the police department to get a copy of the police report, going to the bank and getting the forms signed, certified, and stamped, and the long wait and the worry, I got the bonds back. Although I miss the Einstein drawing on the paper bonds I’m just glad I have them back.
The bottom line is it worked as advertised. I didn’t have to do anything special besides following instructions. You can still trust the system.
However, thinking back, I’d rather avoid this altogether. It would’ve been better not to keep the paper savings bonds at home. Either send them to a safe deposit box or just convert them to electronic. See Convert Your Paper Savings Bonds Using SmartExchange from TreasuryDirect.