On Monday, I received a strange letter in the mail. It was addressed to my father, but sent to my home. My father has been dead for twelve years, and he never saw the house we live in now. The letter purports to be a settlement of some sort of $400 annuity. (I’m unclear on the details and don’t have it with me right now.)

Though I’m deeply skeptical that this is anything but a scam, I do intend to follow up in case it’s legitimate. I’ve heard stories of people who have “found” money of this sort. In fact, there’s an entire industry devoted to lost and unclaimed money of all kinds.

In the U.S., the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is a non-profit organization that assists in “reuniting owners with their property”. NAUPA sponsors a free site called Missing Money, which allows users to search unclaimed property records from participating states. In this context, “property” simply means “stuff” — it doesn’t refer to real estate. Common types of unclaimed property include:

  • Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
  • Uncashed checks and wages
  • Insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds
  • Utility deposits, escrow accounts

Unfortunately, the Missing Money database doesn’t include information for Oregon. (It contains records for 40 of the 50 states.) I’m fairly certain that somewhere out there is a bank account that I opened as a small boy. It probably contained $20 in 1978, and has been earning about 1% interest for the past thirty years. I want my $26.96!

For other unclaimed property resources, check out the Federal government’s “Government May Owe You Money Page”, or contact your state’s unclaimed property office. Meanwhile, I plan to call about the strange letter addressed to my father. I expect it to be a scam of some sort, but who knows?