- Americans misplaced $7.76 billion in 2015; and $3.235 billion of that was returned to the rightful owners by the government unclaimed property agencies. (NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration, 2017)
- Unclaimed property is generally defined as any financial asset that has had no activity by its owner for a period of five years or more. This includes - savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, checking accounts, stocks, certificates of deposit, matured life insurance policies, uncashed death benefit checks, uncashed overtime checks, and forgotten deposits for phone or apartments.
For example, if you have ever moved without getting your utility deposit back, or forgotten about an old checking or savings account, you are entitled to those funds from your state. Unclaimed property is normally turned over to the state or federal government by financial institutions until the rightful recipient (you!) recovers them, or until the property is sold at auction.
- Banks and other businesses are required to turn unclaimed money over to the States. Free websites can help you see if there are any forgotten funds in your name, from unclaimed savings bonds to unclaimed tax refunds. Check every state where you have lived, and every name you have lived under. (ABCNews.com/gma)
- While the process to retrieve your money varies by state, if there is a match, you will typically need to enter personal information, such as your Social Security number and current address. You will then print a claim form and mail it in along with any required documentation.
- Keep your assets from going unclaimed:
- Keep accurate and current records of bank accounts,
insurance policies, stock certificates, utility and rent deposits, and
safe deposit box locations.
- Inform institutions if you have moved.
- Tell your family where important information is kept.
(Source: How to Get Your Unclaimed Money Back, by Mellody Hobson, ABC News GMA, Sept. 25, 2007 and Unclaimed Money -11 Ways to Claim your Cash by Elizabeth Leamy, March 24, 2011)
- Find out if you have unclaimed property. There are billions of dollars waiting to be claimed. Banks and other businesses are required to turn unclaimed money over to the states for safekeeping. It is important to check every state you have lived in, and every name you have lived under.
Fortunately, searching to see
if some of that money belongs to you is easy, thanks to the Internet.
Most unclaimed money is held by the states, but some is also housed with
federal agencies. In both instances, the government is earning
interest on your money.
You should check the databases at least annually, since States are constantly acquiring new unclaimed assets.
Watch out for scammers who offer to find your property for a fee. "This is a free service," says Beth Pearce, president of NAUPA.
The easiest way to search for your property
is to go online to the following websites:
- Failed Bank Accounts. If you
did not collect your money when your bank went under, chances are your
account was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the FDIC
is holding your money. http://fdic.gov
- Federal Tax Refunds.
Everybody looks forward to getting an income tax refund check, but if
yours didn�t arrive, what do you do? The IRS now provides a Where is my
Refund? feature on its website. You can look up your missing check by
entering the amount you are owed plus your social security number.
- Local Newspapers. As an
alternative to conducting an online search, most states publish, twice a
year, all unclaimed property in newspapers, so, keep an eye out for your
name in our local newspapers.
- Lost 401(k). Sometimes when
people leave a job, they leave behind a 401(k) as well. If the company
goes out of business, that only compounds the confusion. Fortunately,
companies that administer 401(k) plans have teamed up to create a search
engine you can try.
- Lost Life Insurance Policies.
As much as one billion dollars in lost or forgotten life insurance benefits is unclaimed.
Benefits that have not been collected for more than a few years after the death of a policy-holder often get turned over to the state where the policy was bought. This process (called "escheatment") is mandated by state unclaimed property law. To find out if you are owed benefits, visit NAUPA's website which checks unclaimed property records in dozens of states. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is an organization of state regulators. http://www.unclaimed.org/
The proceeds of lost life insurance policies may turn up in your state
search. If not, and you suspect you are the beneficiary of a loved
one's lost life insurance policy, you can hire a company called MIB
Solutions to search for you. MIB is a private company that houses life
insurance application information for much of the industry. It costs
$75 to search. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/DrDon/20051114a1.asp
- Miscellaneous Money. The
most basic search you can do is at a website run by the States. The 50
states plus the District of Columbia have set up a free website you can
use to see whether there are any forgotten funds in your name. If you
are searching for things such as forgotten apartment security deposits,
uncashed overtime checks, lost insurance refunds or abandoned safe
deposit boxes, your first stop is the states. The National Association
of Unclaimed Property Administrators has set up a free website, http://unclaimed.org
that will link you to the appropriate department in your state that
holds the funds. Click on a state to search it�and search every state
you have lived in, and search every name you have been known by. Also,
search the state where your bank is based, because sometimes the money
goes there. In addition, search
- Misplaced Pensions. If you are owed a pension from a company that went under, there is a Federal agency that safeguards private pensions. View http://pbgc.gov/wr/trusteed/plans.html
to go to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporations website. If your
company still exists, or has been bought out, you need to approach the
company directly. If you need help, another Federal agency, the
Employee Benefits Security Administration, is charged with making sure
retirement money is reunited with its rightful owners. EBRI even sues to
seize the money sometimes. http://dol.gov/ebsa/
- Missing Money. Missing Money allows you to search many states at one time, choosing particular states from a drop-down menu. (There are few states that do not participate.)
- NAUPA web site. NAUPA
(National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration) is a
nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Association of State
Treasurers, and is the source for information on unclaimed property.
NAUPA's free but commercially-run site is called http://missingmoney.com.
Here, 37 states have partnered with MissingMoney.com, where users can search the combined data-bases of those states. Be sure to search every state where you have lived or worked, and every name you
have had, including your maiden name. This site links to individual state Web sites, which allow
you to search for your property. http://unclaimed.org
- Savings Bonds. If you have
matured and uncashed savings bonds, bring them to your local bank, where
they will cash them in for you. If you think you have lost a savings
bond and have record of the serial numbers, the Bureau of Public Debt (http://publicdebt.treas.gov)
and can look up their status. Also, bonds that are lost, stolen,
mutilated, or destroyed can be replaced free of charge as long as the
Bureau of the Public Debt can establish that the bonds have not been
It is easy for savings bonds to go unclaimed because they take 30 to 40 years
to mature. That is why the Treasury Department has set up a simple
search website, where you can find forgotten bonds by typing in your
social security number. Certain bonds are not listed online and require a
hand search. You can read about them at the same Treasury link.
- Washington State Treasurer. You can call the office of our state treasurer directly. However, they
cannot give you any information over the phone, unless you submit a
written inquiry. http://www.tre.wa.gov/