By: Marcia Keppy
Imagine sitting down at your computer and with a few clicks, finding yourself a few hundred -- or even thousand -- dollars richer. No, I’m not talking about Internet gambling or a get-rich-quick scheme. This money is totally legal. In fact, it’s already yours, you just have to make claim to it. Sounds too good to be true, I know, but there are billions of dollars out there just waiting to be claimed by ordinary people just like you and me.
Where does this money come from? It might be a long forgotten bank account that you left behind when you moved, or a relative’s insurance policy that was never cashed. It may be a bond you purchased under your maiden name and forgot about. When these funds sit idle for a certain number of years, financial institutions are required to turn the money over to the state.
Same thing goes for things left in safe deposit boxes. When they’ve sat untouched for a number years the contents go to the state. But what’s the state going to do with Grandma’s wedding ring? Actually, many states auction off the property – think eBay – and then hold the money until they can find the owner.
Imagine it, the government looking for you – to GIVE you money! What a concept! If the government is holding onto money that could be sitting in your bank account or wallet, you’ll probably want to know where it is, and how to get it back.
Each state has various ways of trying to connect people with their lost assets. Every year, generally in April, there will be an insert in newspapers listing the latest names added to the list of lost owners. Some states set up displays at public events, libraries and fairs. Others work with local lawmakers to try and get the word out. But the quickest, easiest way to find out if you have any unclaimed assets is to search an online database.
Most states have their own database that you can access by going to the state’s Website. A wonderful resource for anyone looking for unclaimed property is www.missingmoney.com, a site run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. It contains a wealth of information on abandoned property, and contact information for each state. It also allows you to do a nationwide search through links to each individual state, and it’s all free.
For those that can’t or don’t want to take on the task themselves, there are companies that will do the searching for you. Sometimes called heir finders or asset locators, the firms help reunite owners with their property for a fee. Beware, however, that legitimate companies will never ask for payment before the property is returned to the rightful owner and whatever they charge should be a percentage of the money to be returned, not a flat fee. And before signing anything, have the company identify the property and verify that it’s yours.
Once you’ve located your own abandoned property, spread the word. There are billions of dollars out there just waiting to be claimed.