Hey, Is This Your Money?

Category: Finance

Did you know that if you have a bank account that has had no activity for as few as two years, it may be declared abandoned, and turned over to the government? Fortunately, there are ways to get that money back. Government experts estimate that $32 billion worth of lost, forgotten, or unclaimed money is waiting for consumers to find it. But it doesn’t wait forever. Here's where to look online to see if there's money waiting for you to claim...

How to Get Your Lost Money Back

It's always worthwhile to check under your couch cushions or car floor mats, but you're not likely to find more than coffee money by doing so. The vast majority of unclaimed cash is waiting in state government hands for the rightful owners to come and get it.

All of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have “unclaimed property” programs. So do the Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Details of their legislative authority vary, but in general they collect and safeguard abandoned or unclaimed funds which banks, brokerages, insurance companies, and other specified institutions are required to report and hand over.

The government is supposed to attempt to reunite citizens with their money. But if you've moved or changed your name, that connection could be missed. And who knows how hard they really try to find you? (Not that hard.) So it's a good idea to make use of online tools to see if you have any missing money that could be reclaimed.

Unclaimed Money

Your starting point to search for unclaimed funds is Unclaimed.org, operated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). This website makes it extraordinarily easy to see if you have any cash coming to you. Just enter your first and last name (or any other name, such as your maiden name or the name of a deceased relative) and look for matching records of funds among the search results. “Cash” may include stocks, bonds, and other liquid assets, not just currency or bank account balances.

Each jurisdiction has its own rules for claiming found money. Most States hang onto unclaimed property forever. A Kansas City, MO, woman collected $6.1 million that her ancestors had lost! Once you find money that seems to be yours, you can contact the appropriate agency to claim it.

All 50 U.S. states participate in NAUPA’s searchable online database, as well as Guam, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec. Check with each state, territory or province that you (or a relative) have lived in. I strongly advise you to begin these searches for missing money at Unclaimed.org, because they will link you to the official government sites to search for and claim your funds. Some unscrupulous third-party sites may charge you a fee to do so.

Other Places to Search for Unclaimed Funds

But don't stop there... the federal government may also have money for you. The Internal Revenue Service has a database of undeliverable refund checks that may belong to you. Are you a military veteran? Search the Veterans Administration Benefits database for unclaimed veterans benefits owed to you.

The U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Public Debt keeps track of unredeemed savings bonds; you can search its database here. The FDIC is holding money owed to depositors of failed banks; you can search for yours here. The National Credit Union Administration has its own database of unclaimed deposits.

If your private pension plan went bust, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. may have your back. If you have an FHA mortgage, HUD may owe you money.

The governments of Canada, France, New Zealand and Switzerland also have searchable databases of unclaimed funds.

Some U.S. states allow local governments to safeguard small amounts of unclaimed cash for up to two years before turning it over to the State. Try Google searches for “unclaimed property” plus the names of towns or counties in which you’ve lived. Google searches for “unclaimed child support” or “undistributed child support” can be fruitful, too; one single mom collected over $30,000 that way.

Beware of anyone who wants a fee to help you find unclaimed property. There are so many free ways to search that I can only describe such finders-fees as scams. The sole exception to that rule is MIB Solutions, a private firm that keeps track of life insurance policies. Life insurance companies are not required to make any effort to pay benefits; beneficiaries must file claims. MIB charges $75 to help you find and claim benefits you may not know were owed to you.

Have you ever searched for abandoned or unclaimed funds? Have you done so and found money? Tell me about your experience. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Hey, Is This Your Money?"

Posted by:

10 Jan 2017

I remember seeing this site years ago and totally forgot about it. I just visited it, and I found $73 owed to me. Woohooo! Doesn't quite pay for the $250 ticket I got this morning, but I'm definitely happier than I was a half hour ago. Thanks again Bob!

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
10 Jan 2017

As a new draftee in Uncle Sam's army back in 1969, I "voluntarily" had money withheld each month from my pay and put into savings bonds.

I was discharged during the Viet Nam war and forgot all about those bonds, which I never saw. Some time in around 2000, I tried to check on their status and was told that the records office at Ft. Sam Huston had burned (in the '80s, I believe) and there was no record.

The sources Bob lists don't have records that go back as far as the '60s and '70s, either.

So I guess my Uncle Sam is a little richer, due to this Army Private's failure to follow up when he got out of the service. :-(

Posted by:

10 Jan 2017

Bob, I get a 404 on your unclaimed veterans benefits link.

Posted by:

10 Jan 2017

Thanks Bob. Good to know this sort of stuff. I checked but sadly nothing for me.

Posted by:

Peter T
11 Jan 2017

The Australian government also has a database that can be searched. In Australia the funds in bank accounts etc that have been inactive for (I think) 7 years are transferred to a government agency but can be reclaimed. The government tried to reduce it to 3 years but public reaction forced them to revert to 7 years.

Posted by:

Ron G
11 Jan 2017

I have found that some undetermined amount of money is available but am concerned that I must enter my Social Security Number. Should I be?

EDITOR'S NOTE: If the page URL starts with HTTPS *and* it's an official state/county/gov page, then it should be OK.

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