Online help for U.S. bonds

Taxpayers who receive a federal tax refund this year will find something that could bring them an additional payoff: a notice reminding them that they can cash in a matured U.S. savings bond.

The flier is part of the Bureau of the Public Debt's high-tech campaign to find $7 billion in U.S. savings bonds that have matured but have not been redeemed.

The bureau has set up a World Wide Web site (www.savingsbonds.gov) to offer information about cashing in matured bonds and enlisted the Internal Revenue Service to spread the word. The flyer that accompanies a tax refund directs taxpayers to the bureau's Web site.

The flyer advises that bonds purchased before 1965 stop collecting interest after 40 years. Bonds issued after 1965 stop collecting interest after 30 years. What few people know is that the bonds are worth 10 times what they cost 40 years ago.

"As the parents of baby boomers really age, we're getting a lot of inquiries from folks who have been going through their papers and finding references to savings bonds from World War II and the early 1950s," the spokesman said.

Consumers can buy bonds online using their credit cards. But to cash a bond, a consumer still must visit a bank and hand over the savings certificate.

"We haven't quite gotten to the virtual redemption center yet," said Wallace Earnest, director of the division of staff services at the bureau's headquarters in Parkersburg, W.Va. The savings bond "storefront" is part of the bureau's efforts to move "as much of our business as we can toward handling it electronically."

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