[UNCLAIMED] Is This Your Money?

Category: Finance

Did you know... 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 are more than a DOZEN places 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. SEC regulations also require corporations that pay dividends to make an effort to notify you if there are uncashed dividend checks. 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? 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 Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor sometimes recovers unpaid wages on behalf of employees, and holds those funds for three years. You can search the Workers Owed Wages database to see if you have money waiting to be claimed. 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, Australia, 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 "[UNCLAIMED] Is This Your Money?"

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

Thanks for the reminder about these services. While my money is all accounted for, I found some dough for my folks and my MIL. Now we wait to see how big the windfall is (small potatoes, I'm sure).

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

It is important to note that if you get an email from a company offering to get known-to-them lost funds back for a fee, you can find it by yourself and get it without paying their fee. I was executor for my step-father's estate and got one of those emails. I would never have looked for it otherwise but got $2700 more for his children with a little internet digging.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

Thank you for the information. I filed for unclaimed money in Nov 2017 and am waiting. Per The Michigan Department of Treasury, "Unclaimed Property's goal is to process claims in less than 90 days." Let see what happens.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

Getting your money back from the state isn't as easy as you might think. I tried and the state wanted a copy of a will that entitled me to the money. Since I didn't have such a will I couldn't get it. You would think that a death certificate or a marriage certificate or a probate certificate would be acceptable but it's not in my state. It wasn't worth it to hire an attorney. I wonder what % of married couples have wills these days.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

Hi Bob. This article prompted a rapid search for monies owing to myself and when that failed to dig up any windfall I extended the search to just about everyone I could think of. Found nothing for anyone but had a lot of fun. Thank you for the entertainment.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2018

I have an external hard drive for file and os backup, however, it will not turn on my computer in standby mode and initiate the backup. There are no instructions to do so in the help data for the unit. Do you have any suggestions for me?
Thanks, Mike

Posted by:

Ira Glanc
02 Jan 2018

Like Elinor, I was contacted by a third party offering to retrieve funds held by the state for a fee. Since they so generously told me which state was holding the money, I contacted the state myself and saved the fee. Turns out, the process was easy.
But sadly, I was only owed a few hundred bucks.

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