An estimated 33 million Americans are owed around $70 billion worth of unclaimed property. State treasurers currently hold these assets. If you don't think you're one of the estimated 33 million, you may be surprised. In research for this article, I typed my name into MissingMoney.com, part of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website, and learned that I'm owed money from four separate sources. Typing my husband's name revealed that he has a ridiculous 12 batches of unclaimed funds.
Let's take a look at what you need to know about these funds and how you can claim yours.
Where do the assets come from?
Here are some of the more common types of unclaimed property that end up in state treasurer's offices:
- Utility deposits
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Uncashed payroll checks
- Credit balances on closed accounts
- Refund checks
- Court deposits
- Life insurance proceeds
- Uncashed death benefit checks
- Mineral proceeds
- Money orders
If you left money sitting somewhere, there's a good chance it found its way to a treasurer's office somewhere. Because we move so often, my husband and I have unclaimed funds sitting in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and Missouri.
It's all thanks to unclaimed property laws
Unclaimed property laws in the U.S. began as a consumer protection program. At one time, they only protected the property owners, but over time, they have evolved to ensure heirs and estates are also covered. Once property is in the custody of a state's unclaimed property program, that state will maintain it forever or until the rightful owner or heirs step forward to claim it.
No centralized source
While sites like MissingMoney.com let you know there's money waiting to be claimed, there is no government-wide source for funds or assets. Each agency keeps its own records of what you're owed.
Even though I can't claim my money through MissingMoney.com, the site did point me in the right direction. Each link included my name, which party sent the money, where I lived at the time, and roughly how much I'm owed. When I click that link, it tells me which state currently holds the funds. Interestingly, it may not be the state in which the property was first reported.
Whenever I clicked on a link, it directed me to a state treasurer's office.
If you need more information
If your search leaves you more confused, here are some other legitimate sources you can check for your own piece of the unclaimed treasure.
- U.S. Courts: Unclaimed Funds in Bankruptcy
- National Credit Union Administration unclaimed shares
- HUD/FHA mortgage insurance refunds
- Treasury Hunt: Unclaimed U.S. securities and payments
And if you're looking for another federal agency, you'll find the contact information at:
Where there's money to be found, there are of course scammers. You don't need anyone to help you locate your money. Comb through enough websites, and you can do it on your own. However, some companies use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to find information regarding federal, state, and local government checks that have yet to be cashed.
If these scammers can find you, they will contact you and offer to match you with your money for a “finder's fee.” Again, you don't need them, and you don't need a third party to make a claim if you're owed money, despite what they might tell you.
The amount of money we've cumulatively left behind is staggering. Now, it's just a matter of going back, making a claim, and putting the money in the bank.
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