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 Google “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 five 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 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 anymore 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. We received an email from the Treasury Department by the following Monday 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 could transfer the bonds from the new linked account into my regular account. I decided to just leave them there for now and deal with it later.
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 at a bank or just deposit them to the online account at TreasuryDirect. See How To Deposit Paper I Bonds to TreasuryDirect Online Account.
Say No To Management Fees
If you are paying an advisor a percentage of your assets, you are paying 5-10x too much. Learn how to find an independent advisor, pay for advice, and only the advice.
1. Is there anyway for the original paper bonds to be marked as stolen? And thus if someone actually went to cash them, they could be detained/arrested (identity theft, stealing, etc)?
2. Should people that have paper bonds convert them to avoid the risk? (I guess you alluded to this at the end)
3. Once converted, how can paper bonds be properly disposed?
II converted all my paper bonds as a convenience after the treasury stopped issuing them.
For conversion, bonds are send to the treasury so they destroy them. And they are pretty good if you have issues like ‘lost in delivery’ a problem I had.
You can transfer the bonds back to your main RD account (from conversion account).
Go under ‘manage direct’ and then ‘transfer’ on the left column.
Harry Sit says
Thanks. On second thought I’m not sure what effect transferring them will have on the co-owner status. I’m inclined to leave them alone in the conversion account. I don’t log in often. As long as I know how to access them, where they sit doesn’t matter much to me.
Bill Marshall says
This is a variation on “lost I-Bonds”…
Every year I get $5K of I-Bonds as part of my tax refund. They come in the mail about the same time as the IRS refund check, 4*1000, 1*500, 1*200, and 6*50. Separate envelopes!!! But this year one of the $1K bonds didn’t arrive.
So I took a look at form 1048. I don’t have the serial number, but I can guess the issue date and inscription (same as the rest). Lost or Stolen? Don’t really know. Who had the bonds last? USPostOffice. Was a police report filed? Do they really want a police report saying the USPS stole a I-Bond??? Result of inquiry to the persons who had access? They know nothing. When were the bonds last seen? By me—never.
Maybe this is the most appropriate form, but it doesn’t seem to be appropriate at all.
Its only been two weeks since the first 11 of the 12 bonds arrived, so I’m just waiting for now. Maybe it will be “found in supposedly empty equipment.”
Harry Sit says
You can call them at 800-553-2663. They can tell you how long to wait before you file a claim or how to fill out the claim form.
Sam S says
I’m glad you got your bonds back, Harry. Again, I’m sorry to hear about the burglary.
The federal government used to say Savings Bonds were a safe and secure way to save. That’s not true. My wife and I both worked for the federal government and decided to buy US Savings Bonds because the gov’t said they were safe and secure. We put our bonds in a fire proof file cabinet every time they came in. We had been purchasing the bonds for a few years when my wife decided to get a cleaning lady to tidy up the house since she was working. The lady abruptly quit and we looked to see if anything was missing but couldn’t find anything missing. We checked the bonds but didn’t look at each and everyone and it didn’t look as if anyone had messed with them. Everything looked ok. We started cashing the bonds as they fully matured. We were surprised to find some bonds in the middle of our bonds were missing. So we filled out the paperwork to get them replaced. The Treasury Department informed us all the bonds that were missing had been closed (cashed) and if a claim had not been filed within 10 years of a bond’s recorded date of payment; it is presumed to have been properly paid. We have all the information but the Treasury Dept refuses to follow up on the theft. The largest financial organization in the world does not send out any type of financial statement providing any financial transactions on the bonds they issue, so if someone steals a bond and cashes it you’ll never know until you start cashing your bonds and find some missing. If it’s been cashed over 10 years they just say, it’s been properly paid and they close the case without further action and you lose your money.
Did you ask to appeal it? Did they tell you when the 10yr rule went into effect? Was it before or after they sold you bonds? Did they say where they notified you of this requirement?
Savings bonds are the biggest scam!!
They put requirements that they never disclose until you try to have them honor replacing stolen bonds… Then they tell you, you should have been confirming that no one stole or reissued your bonds every so often. That your bonds that they promised were safe and would be replaced are now gone forever!!
THEY SUCK, DO NOT EVER BUY ANYTHING FROM THE TREASURY!
You are correct! I will NEVER buy savings bonds. They can be stolen meaning CASHED and it’s next to impossible to get them back. HOWEVER, if anyone has ever had their stolen United States Treasury Savings bonds STOLEN. Please let us know what steps you took to get them to honor their ‘guarantee’ to replace the STOLEN AND CASHED SAVINGS bonds.
Thank you for that help. We all need it.
My father recently passed and a sibling who is the executor to his will refuses to do a search on any bonds issued to him. I tried to do a simple search but was told I don’t have the proper authority. Looks like I and my co beneficiaries are up the creek.
Fill this form out https://www.treasurydirect.gov/forms/sav1048.pdf
If you don’t have the serial numbers (which you won’t if you don’t have the bonds of course) just put down that they might have been bought under either YOUR SSN OR your dad’s SSN so make sure you put down both of your SSNs and make it clear whose is whose. State that you are looking to see if any were bought for you by your father where he was the purchaser (owner) or he may have bought them where you are the purchaser (owner). If you look at the top of a savings bond that has two people named on it, the top is the owner or the purchaser and the co-owner would be listed second (below the purchaser). My parents bought bonds for us and sometimes named us as the co-owner (beneficiary) or as the purchaser/owner even if they paid for the bond. They always had their name and my name on it so that if one of us died, either they or me would become the owner. You will need this form notarized and make sure you send this to the correct mailing address on the instructions. And where it asks for the issue date and serial number I put, I don’t know this information but only that my parent may have bought bonds for me under their name with me as the beneficiary or under my name as the purchaser/owner. And of course where they ask were they lost, did you report it to the police, again, explain your situation. Hang in there. It takes patience and perseverance IF your father did buy you them.