You have probably seen advertisements advising you to search for unclaimed money. Many people dismiss the offers as potential scams or information grabs. However, many people are leaving money on the table without even realizing it. Even the U.S. Government has a site for people who may have unclaimed money from things like bank and credit union closings, tax refunds, back wages, pensions payments, and even life insurance payments. And that, for many, is only the beginning.
How Much Unclaimed Money is Available?
According to USA Today tech columnist Kim Komando, in Arizona alone, there is more than $1.5 billion in unclaimed property just waiting for the right person to claim it. That includes things like FHA refunds, utility deposit refunds, unclaimed life insurance, and undelivered tax refunds.
Of course, it is crucial to be mindful of scams. Companies are out there offering to locate unclaimed money on your behalf – for a fee. If you are looking for money from one of the sources mentioned above, the U.S. Government website is an excellent place to begin your search.
How Does Money Go Missing?
Money goes missing in a variety of ways.
- Bank and credit union accounts: Some of the most common involve bank or credit union closures that result in ages-old savings accounts that may have only had a few dollars remaining in them, going uncollected and gathering interest for a decade or so.
- Treasury bonds: Another opportunity for unclaimed money is through undeliverable Treasury Bonds. Some people believe they have lost their bond certificates. Fortunately, there are claim forms you can fill out for lost, stolen, or destroyed certificates.
- Pension plans: Some people are pleasantly surprised to learn they still have money in their failed pension plans. It is rarely even close to the amount of money the initial pension would have provided, but still, a little bit is better than nothing. The same holds for retirement benefits. You may have a small sum waiting in an account from an employer you completely forgot about.
- Life insurance policies: You could even be a beneficiary on someone’s life insurance policy. Sometimes, insurance companies demutualize leaving people, like you, believing you have no life insurance protection. That is not necessarily the case. Some of these companies may owe you cash or stock but have no idea how to reach you.
Places to Look
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to look. The best practice is to begin your search in your home state. If you have lived in multiple states, you may want to consider searching for unclaimed money in all of them. You should be aware that each state could have different websites and processes for looking for and claiming unclaimed money in your name.
The simple step would be to do an Internet search for “unclaimed money + state.” Just make sure that you find a trusted site with a .gov extension before you provide any personal information. You should also never pay a fee.
You might also consider where you can conduct a state by state search for unclaimed properties in your name.
However, there are a few helpful websites that may aid you in your search for unclaimed money:
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators
- Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation
- National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
- National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
- Unclaimed V.A. Funds
- FHA Mortgage Insurance Refunds
One huge tip is to look for variations on your name if you have one that gets commonly misspelled. That offers you more opportunities to find the funds that may belong to you, despite an incorrect spelling.
Once you have located unclaimed funds that potentially belong to you, it is time to collect those funds. Each website should detail the process for claiming your funds, as well as provide information related to how long it should take to complete the process and deliver proof of your identity.
The process, from start to finish, can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. While the rewards for your efforts may be small, there is always a chance that they can be much larger than you anticipate.
There is a lot of legitimate unclaimed money floating around. Knowing the right places to find the money and how to avoid common scams can help you find any unclaimed money waiting for you, without becoming a victim in the process.