You know that feeling of putting your hand in your jacket pocket and finding $5? Or the feeling of lifting up a sofa cushion to vacuum and discovering loose change? Finding forgotten money is a happy feeling. And maybe, just maybe, if Santa agrees that you have been a very good person accumulating much good karma, I can help you find some forgotten money today.
Enter Stage Right: Sleazy Man with a Sketchy Offer
A while ago Mr. BITA started receiving these letters from a company called U.S. Claims Services Inc.
At first we simply shredded them, convinced it was a scam. But Aaron was persistent, and the letters kept on coming. After a while I said to Mr. BITA, “What if this is legitimate? We’re throwing away nearly $800.” After all, a lot of information on those letters was accurate. The company that Aaron claimed was the source of the money? Mr. BITA had interned there. The address on the letter? Mr. BITA had lived there. Mr. BITA remained convinced that Aaron was a scam artist, but we decided to put our Google-fu to good use and find out what we could about Mr. Hashim’s company. Mr. BITA was right. Mr. Hashim was playing fast and loose with the truth. But the money was real.
There was unclaimed property in Mr. BITA’s name.
What is Unclaimed Property?
Unclaimed property is the ‘lost and found’ department of the financial world. It refers to money or property in the hands of financial institutions and other companies that rightfully belongs to someone else but said institution or company has been unable to get in touch with the rightful owner. Here are some examples of unclaimed property:
- Uncashed payroll cheques
- Refunds owed to the consumer, but the account is closed and the company can’t get in touch with the consumer to issue the refund
- Utility security deposits that cannot be returned
- Checking or savings accounts that are dormant and the account owners are AWOL.
- Uncashed dividends
- Contents of safe deposit boxes
The law (specifically, laws enacted by each state based on the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, UUPA) requires that companies turn over such property to the state. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have such laws on the books. The state takes possession of the property for the rightful owner and should the owner be located the state is legally bound to return said property to him or her. Typically, such claims can be made in perpetuity, even by heirs.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) exists with a charter to “to promote and strengthen unclaimed property administration and interstate cooperation in order to enhance States’ return of unclaimed property to rightful owners”. NAUPA has some startling things to say about unclaimed property. “In FY 2015, $3.235 billion was returned to the rightful owners by the government unclaimed property agencies of the $7.763 billion collected” Yes, you read that right. Nearly $8 billion was collected in unclaimed property in one year. Here are some striking facts about unclaimed property from various media sources:
- There is over $32 billion in unclaimed funds across the U.S.
- This fascinating KQED article states that California has over $8 billion in unclaimed property on the books. Even crazier? Unclaimed property is the fifth-largest revenue source for California’s general fund, bringing in about $400 million a year.
- The Treasurer of Virginia says one in four residents in the state has unclaimed property.
How to Find Your Unclaimed Property
You’ve found lost friends on Facebook (and for the most part instantly regretted this, and wished they would go back to being lost). I guarantee that finding lost money will be a much happier experience all around. Remember the letter above? It said the funds had been transferred to a “third party escrow account”? That is true. Your money is being held by the state. And Mr. Hashim is wrong (or a bald faced liar, who knows?), retrieving it is free. You don’t have to pay a 20% fee, and you certainly don’t need the services of detectives in trench coats with hats pulled down low lurking in doorways to locate it.
So, how do you check if some state is holding on to some moolah for you? Visit
and start your search. Remember to search in every state that you have ever resided or worked in.
There are also a couple of other places to search for your property:
- The Treasury holds some $16 billion in unclaimed savings bonds. Check out treasuryhunt.gov.
- Unclaimed refunds from the IRS. Check out this site. Remember that unlike unclaimed property above, unclaimed tax refunds expire in the three years.
Our Happy Ending
We are in the process of claiming the $794 from the state of Colorado for Mr. BITA. On a whim I searched for unclaimed property in my name and found $103.72 waiting for me in California. Ka Ching! California’s claims process was entirely online and I received a cheque from the state in about 3 weeks. Colorado requires us to send in a notarized document, which is why that one is still a work in progress.
I told my colleagues at work our story. Four of the nine people I talked to found something, ranging from $6 all the way to $350.
Oh and thank you, Aaron Hashim. We couldn’t have done this without you. Sadly, you aren’t getting a dime from us.
Go forth and search for treasure. And if you find some, do let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your stories.