Unclaimed Money: Go get yours!

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles

Dear WAHFAQ,

I’ve moved around a lot, and I think a utility company is still holding a deposit from several years ago. I remember you mentioned something about tracking this money down, but I forgot who to contact. The company, of course, doesn’t exist anymore, (they merged so many times!) so maybe I’m out of luck? Can you help? 

Ah yes! The fun of tracking down unclaimed property! I remember I first heard about this process from a friend of mine several years back. She told me she had received notice from a company trying to track her down and give her “unclaimed money” from New York State. Immediately, my “scam” flags started going off and I began interrogating her:

Who is this company?
What do they say you’re owed money for?
When did you live in New York?
How did they find you?
Do you have to pay them a fee?

But with every answer she gave me, it seemed more and more legitimate. As it turns out, my friend had sold a property in New York a few years ago, and there was money left in the escrow account. Because she had moved several times since living there, the company had a hard time tracking her down, but finally caught up with her in Seattle. They weren’t charging a fee…they just wanted to send her a check for about $700! And of course, this made me wonder if there was any unclaimed property in my name.

According to NAUPA: (the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators), “Unclaimed Property”…

“…(sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, un-cashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, un-redeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer over payments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.”

The companies will report this unclaimed property to the state after they have made sufficient attempts at contacting the rightful owner. While NAUPA maintains an inter-state database of records, it really is up to each individual state’s department of commerce or treasury (usually in the “unclaimed property division”) to have a complete database. But you can start your search at www.unclaimed.org and www.missingmoney.com to see if there is any unclaimed money in your name. I was hopeful that since I had moved so much and lived in 3 different states there was some extra money out there for me…but, no such luck.

However, I did find that two of my cousins were owed money: one from a private company, and one from a utility bill. And my great-aunt and a great-uncle were both owed money from an insurance company as well as a utility company. They have since passed on, and since they didn’t have children my grandparents were their heirs…of course since now both of my grandparents have passed on, that money may be unclaimed forever.

Remember, it’s completely free to retrieve any money that is rightfully yours. Because of the Freedom of Information Act, companies may use this public information to find people who are owed large sums, and then charge fees to help in the collection process. Those companies aren’t necessarily scams, but, you don’t have to pay them! You can collect any funds due to you by going through www.missingmoney.com and your state’s Department of Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Division.

I’m guessing that’s where you may be able to find your lost deposit. Good luck!

Find missing money using sites like MissingMoneyWhere’s My RefundTreasuryHuntPBGC database, and GovBenefits.gov.

Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

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