Is there Spare Change in your Couch?

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.

How To Find Unclaimed Property: A Fake Claim Letter

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:

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.

How to Find Unclaimed Property CA reimbursement

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.

21 thoughts on “Is there Spare Change in your Couch?”

    1. Hehe. My name is still unique enough that if you google it every hit on the first two pages of google is actually me. Mr. BITA, on the other hand, has a name as common as mud.

  1. Finding unclaimed 800 bucks must have been pretty cool!
    I have searched for unclaimed cash a couple of times, but nothing is out there for me..

  2. Why was your money unclaimed? Did you forget about some 401(k) contributions at an old company or something?

    1. It was money from a bank account of mine from way back when. Years ago, before I actually migrated to the U.S. I worked for a startup. The startup had offices in India and in the Valley. For a little while I was traveling back and forth between the two offices and I opened a bank account here to deposit the cheques that they were paying me for my stints here. Then the startup shutdown (as is the case with the vast majority of startups) and I stopped visiting the U.S. By the time I migrated here the bank in question (Washington Mututal) had shut down and I never considered the fact that the money I had with them might in any way be recoverable.

  3. Wow that is awesome news!!! My wife and I have played around with these sites and luckily or sadly depending on how you look at it we’re not entitled to any money. Oh well. That’s awesome news for you all though. More importantly how are you going to spend the new found money 🙂

    1. Spend? What is this spending of which you speak? Good sir, you are a blemish on the face of our fair FIRE community. How dare you! We will invest every last dime.

      (No, no we won’t. We will probably buy some beer, and then save the rest).

  4. A few years ago my brother-in-law called me up to let us know that Mrs. Need2Save was listed in the local paper for unclaimed property. Sure enough we had a credit from Verizon for service we canceled years ago.

    I certainly enjoy putting on an old jacket and finding $5 in the pocket 🙂

    1. Awesome pants. That sounds like a good ROI on 5 minutes of your time.

      P.S. I really enjoy your blog posts.

  5. I love this! Years ago I checked (maybe one of these sites you mentioned?) and found some money for a cousin. Alas, there was nothing for me or Mr. Groovy. But, I should check again, and also under variations of our names.

    Happy new year to you!

  6. Winner winner! I had tried these years ago without any luck. But we just tried again and found $340 in my mother in law’s name. There is also another claim we found for an unknown amount over $50. Not too shabby!

    Great post Mrs. BITA, much appreciated 🙂

    1. You are most welcome. We think we found something for my father-in-law too, but he has one of those common as mud names, so he will need to enter more information to figure out if it really is him.

  7. Fun!! I searched my name and all of my family and friends. I didn’t find any money but I may have found some distant relatives! Our last name isn’t very common so it is always a bit strange to come across another. 🙂 Good for you guys for finding some dough…every buck counts!

    1. Bummer. I guess you and your clan are all careful with your money and, unlike the BITAs, you don’t leave it lying carelessly about. Hope the newly discovered second aunt twice removed Mazuma turns out to be cool.

    1. You are going to be someone’s favourite aunt aren’t you?

      I think it is great that we have these laws that prevent greedy corporate beasts from just swallowing up money owed.

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