You might be owed money and not even realize it. Perhaps a company owes you back pay from a previous job, you have money in a pension fund you didn’t know about, or you’re still owed part of a tax refund. Or, you could be owed a refund from a company but they weren’t able to contact you – likely because you moved.
With a few quick searches, you can find out if a company or organization owes you money, and claim it. In 2015 alone, more than $5.11 million dollars was claimed by residents of Vermont. New York State has already returned $24 million to residents in 2016. Perhaps you’re owed something as well?
Where Are Unclaimed Funds?
When a company owes someone money and there hasn’t been any activity on the account for a year or longer, the money is often turned over to the state. The state holds the money until the rightful owner claims it, at which points it’s returned free of charge – although there may be a nominal processing fee. If there are unclaimed stocks, bonds, or safe deposit boxes they are sometimes sold or auctioned off, and the proceeds are made available to the original owner.
Each state also has a website where you can input your name and see if you’re owed anything, some also require your Social Security Number. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has a map with links to each state’s site. You can also perform a search on NAUPA-endorsed MissingMoney.com, but the site only partners with some states, territories, and Canadian provinces.
You only need to put your last name down to perform a search, although adding your first name and/or a middle initial can make sorting through the results easier.
You may find out that a telecom company or newspaper owes you $20 to $100, or a lot more. One man in Virginia discovered he had over $260,000 in an old bank account, and a butcher in Washington, D.C. found out he was owed over $400,000 from a life insurance policy his father had.
The Quick Three-Step Process
Searching and claiming the money is often straightforward. Sometimes the process can be completed online, although some states do require you send a claim form by mail.
- Search for unclaimed funds on MissingMoney.com or Unclaimed.org. Perform multiple searches if you’ve lived in several states.
- If you find matching funds, file a claim.
- Wait for the state to process the claim and send you the money. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Dig Deeper and You May Find More
You can also look for unclaimed property that’s held by smaller municipalities as sometimes the money might not sent to the state. Start by trying to find the relevant website by searching for the name of the area, city/town/village/county, and unclaimed funds or property. If you’ve worked for the government or tried to purchase a license or permit from them, you may be owed money.
Depending on the type of property you’re searching for you may also need to check a different site or section of the site. To find money from the following types of accounts or funds, follow the links:
- Unclaimed treasury bonds
- Tax refunds
- Money from failed banks
- Deposits from a credit union
- Failed pension plans
- Retirement accounts
- Mortgage refund
- Life insurance searches can be more complicated and you may need to know the deceased’s last known address, date of birth and death, and attach an image of their death certificate. You can sometimes search for an unclaimed life insurance funds on some state-run sites, or you can try looking on Demutualized-Claims.com. For $75, you can hire MIB Solutions to do a search on your behalf.
Hiring Asset Locators
Finding unclaimed property can be simple in some cases, but if you want to hire someone else to perform an in-depth search that may be an option. Asset locators or heirs’ finders often charge a percentage of the value of the property they find. Their services can be worthwhile, but be wary of scams or being overcharged.
States often limit how much the asset finders can charge, ranging from 5 to over 25 percent. Never pay an upfront fee as legitimate businesses or individuals expect you to pay them after the property is returned. This fee should cover all the costs associated with the service, and the money should be sent directly to you, not the asset finder.
Update: After researching and writing this article, I started to search for friends in family members to see if any of them have unclaimed money (sadly, there wasn’t any for me). I found nearly $200 for siblings, a claim of an undisclosed amount for my cousin and aunt, and several others for friends.