MORE than £700,000 worth of premium bond wins in Somerset have been left unclaimed.

Premium Bonds were launched in 1956 using special machine ERNIE, which was built by the team behind the Second World War code breaker, Colossus.

ERNIE 4 has been decommissioned at the start of March and replaced by its fifth incarnation.

The popularity of Premium Bonds has soared so much so that over 78 billion Bonds are now eligible to win any of the three million prizes each month with the draw taking just 12 minutes.

ERNIE 4 paid out 322 million prizes over the course its career, including over 4 million prizes to Somerset since its launch in 2004, worth over £161 million. Additionally, Agent Million has personally visited Somerset four times since 2004 to hand deliver the £1 million jackpot prize.

The first eligible Bond numbers to be generated by ERNIE 5, winning the two £1 million jackpot prizes, belong to a man from Somerset and a woman from Buckinghamshire.

The Somerset winner, who holds the maximum amount of £50,000 in Premium Bonds, has held his winning Bonds since September 2015 (winning Bond number: 256SE420168).

However, there are more than 19,000 prizes that are due to savers in Somerset that are still waiting to be claimed out of a total of £60 million in unclaimed prizes throughout the country.

Jill Waters, NS&I’s retail director, said: “ERNIE 4 brought prize-winning joy to Somerset, but there are still many prizes waiting to be united with their rightful owners. Prizes often become unclaimed as a result of people moving house, or forgetting that Bonds have been bought for them as a child, or executors are unaware the Bonds are held when someone dies.

“By opting to manage your Premium Bonds online you could reduce the risk of missing out on prizes as they can be paid directly into your bank account or they can be reinvested into your Premium Bonds account.”

The highest value prize to be left unclaimed in Somerset is £25,000. The current holding balance of this account of £305 and it won in the draw in November 2016. The winning bond number was 41VP618789.

Yeovil Express:

Yeovil Express:

There is no time limit for claiming prizes and each unclaimed prize is held until the rightful winner can be tracked down. The oldest unclaimed prize dates back to January 1969 where a Premium Bonds holder from Somerset has a prize to the sum of £25 waiting to be claimed.

There are a number of reasons a prize would go unclaimed, such as forgetting bonds were bought in your name as a young person, or bonds not being accounted for by a family after a death.

NS&I is calling for Premium Bonds holders to come forward to claim their prizes, and to sign-up to have their winnings paid directly into their bank accounts, or to have prizes auto-reinvested, to reduce the chances of prizes going unclaimed in future.

More than 30,000 Premium Bonds holders in Somerset now receive their prizes directly to their bank accounts, and a further 33,000 have opted to have their prizes reinvested into their Premium Bonds account, increasing their chances of winning further prizes.