Missing money: Finding unclaimed property

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?

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TosaJen
TosaJen
12 years ago

The advent of public online databases have created two kinds of vultures: — the collections people who buy ancient, written-off debt for pennies on the dollar, then spend a few more pennies mailing out letters to convince people to pay them money to clear off a debt that’s likely long off the credit report — the abandoned property researchers, who are happy to reunite people with their own property for a hefty percentage of the amount. Like the other vultures, they can make a hefty return-on-investment for letters and postage if they only get a few bites. 😛 Hooray to… Read more »

Aryn
Aryn
12 years ago

It’s probably the lost property thing, but if you were the executor for his estate, it could be an old class-action or something. My dad and his siblings received $1600 for a class action related to my grandmother’s medical care more than 20 years after she died.

Money Blue Book
Money Blue Book
12 years ago

Well I just ran a search for myself in Maryland…nada. Would have been nice to find a financial surprise though.

Tina Marie
Tina Marie
12 years ago

It may not be a scam. I got one of those years ago about some sort of pension a railroad owed my grandfather. I passed it on to my mother who called them and they sent her a check. It wasn’t a huge check (a few hundred dollars?), but it wasn’t a scam either.

Eric
Eric
12 years ago

I just found $97 in wages from a previous employer, and it is claimed through my State Dept of Treasury, so no fees. Just have to attach a bunch of documents. Cool!

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life
[email protected] Super-Charged Life
12 years ago

There sure are a lot of listings on the MissingMoney.com site. Have you seen anything that tells how many people “find” significant amounts of their unclaimed property this way?

TosaJen
TosaJen
12 years ago

BTW — I doubt it’s a scam, but don’t pay anyone else to get your money for you. The states will give it back to you for free.

And run the national search, not just a state search. Sometimes a company headquartered in another state ends up turning over your property to that state’s unclaimed property department.

Ron@TheWisdomJournal
12 years ago

WOW!
I just found where I was owed back wages from an old employer in North Carolina. This just blows my mind. This is too cool.

Thanks JD!

M.B.
M.B.
12 years ago

J.D. – You should go to http://mscfprod2.iservices.state.or.us/dsl/unclaimed_property/search.cfm to see if you have any unclaimed property in Oregon. Hope this helps!

joe
joe
12 years ago

Cool, just found $50 from an overpaid utility bill. Didn’t cost me anything to claim it. Thanks!

Mikell
Mikell
12 years ago

I found two paychecks from a past employer! Thanks for the tip, JD!

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

Thanks! I just found $50

crazypumpkin
crazypumpkin
12 years ago

I actually just had the state I used to work in contact me about “missing property”. The thing that really pisses me off though is that this is wages from an old employer who HAS MY NEW ADDRESS, as I was living here when I quit that job. Annoying. But I too thought it was a scam at first, did some digging and found out it wasn’t. I didn’t mind getting the money I never realized I was missing!

sir jorge
sir jorge
12 years ago

yes! I love this.

amanda
amanda
12 years ago

My in-laws actually just got notice of about $2300 of unclaimed property. It was legit- they deposited it all into savings.

Rachael
Rachael
12 years ago

Oooh I might have something helpful to contribute for once!! I *just* did a search for this like a month ago, because a friend had found something like $2,000 doing it. Worth a shot, I thought. So, I did myself and all my family…. there was no missing money for ME, but I did find about $400 for my Dad from an apartment deposit he never collected. …And since you are a fellow Oregonian, I just so happen to know the people for you to check with! 🙂 Go here: http://mscfprod2.iservices.state.or.us/dsl/unclaimed_property/search.cfm You can search your name, and your father’s, and… Read more »

vh
vh
12 years ago

The public records search is a great thing to do. I found $150 owed to me. Then I located another $200 of my long-deceased father’s. It took some doing, but I was able to prove I was his heir and the state forked over the cash. If the sender of the letter asks to be paid for retrieving the alleged settlement for you, it’s obviously a scam. But many of these things are not. A friend’s mom had a private investigator show up saying the mom’s father had died and left her an inheritance. She hadn’t seen the old guy,… Read more »

Retirement Expert
Retirement Expert
12 years ago

another website is unclaimed.org. i found close to $400 with the site from two srouces

Roger
Roger
12 years ago

When I was a kid in elementary school, we had one of those savings account programs where you’d bring in a quarter every Monday and they’d put it in an account for you. Forgot all about that until three years ago, when I did a search and found the old account. $103.

Interestingly, once an account is declared abandoned, the bank no longer has to pay interest on it, as far as I know, which is one reason they are eager to get these old accounts off of their books.

SkyeBlue
SkyeBlue
12 years ago

About 7 years ago I found over $2500.00 in savings accounts in CA that had belonged to my mother who passed away in 1978. They had been turned over to the State. Every State has an unclaimed money/property site, usually on the main State website. You should never pay anyone to try and find money for you, it is easy to do yourself. Also, when you search, search under your name, your maiden name, and even your parents name, and your mothers maiden name. I have even found items listed under my Grandmothers name (One of the savings accounts, she… Read more »

JimmyM
JimmyM
12 years ago

There is definitely way too much money being sent to state unclaimed asset bureaus. What’s scary is last year I read an article about some non-profit organizations lobbying to have these assets donated to the non-profit organization after a certain period of time. I don’t have anything that I know I overlooked, but I took a more proactive approach to the whole problem of loosing things in the first place. I started using a service called eLifeID (www.eLifeID.com) and made instruction records for all that I have. This way if anything happens to me, my family will know exactly where… Read more »

thisisbeth
thisisbeth
12 years ago

Excellent! I recently found a paycheck that I never cashed when I was young and absent-minded. I wondered where I should take it to get the money. I’ll write my state next week (I don’t have the check with me right now).

Financialgal
Financialgal
12 years ago

The State of Maryland, Unclaimed Property Unit, actually mailed me a notice saying that I had $318 in unclaimed property from a mortgage refinancing that I did some years ago. I would have never thought to check. However, when I read the letter, I was a little concerned that they were requesting my social security number. So I called the office and checked their online website to confirm that this wasn’t some sort of scam to get my SS# and a copy of my driver’s license. Six weeks later, I got the check in the mail.

JL
JL
12 years ago

Since your blog yesterday – I have been personaly responsible for finding for co-workers and family, over $5000 in unclaimed property. JD, everyone in my office wants to thank you for post yesterday. To bad that I didn’t have any unclaimed property, but oh well.

JL

PLP
PLP
12 years ago

I found money this way once. I had a second job for a while to prevent taking on debt for an upcoming expense. I made quite a bit more than I needed for the expense and just happened to forget to come back to pick up my last check. It was for a partial week so it was not much money, but I was still glad to receive it. This reminds me of another virtue of direct deposit.

Gena
Gena
12 years ago

I just found $68.13 [probably my last paycheck] from a job I had in high school!

Francesca
Francesca
12 years ago

I found an old dividend payment for my in-laws and an old payment for my OH. Not bad going!

GearMaven
GearMaven
12 years ago

I’ve loved those sites for some time and found monies for family, friends and former employers. You have to acknowledge the stupidity, however, of banks, business or govt and realize why so much money is unclaimed by doing the following. Take a look at the MissingMoney site again. Now, put “Army” or some other company name in the FIRST Name field and “The” in the LAST name field. Now you see why people don’t get their money. Be very thorough and make sure you enter all kinds of variations of your name, putting your last name first and first name… Read more »

TF
TF
12 years ago

I actually work for UP in a certain state and a tip or two: if you have some time to kill, write into the office and include a SS# — we can do a more thorough search of the system with it. (I know people get antsy about SS#s though.) If you are looking for something specific, be very specific in your request to the UP office. Send copies of checks or other documents (or be sure to write that info in your letter) sometimes checks are not reported with an owner name on it, just the check number. (For… Read more »

Tony
Tony
7 years ago
Reply to  TF

I am interested in starting a business that finds money for people and charging a 10% fee for finding it. I realize that they can get it for nothing, but $80 for me finding something they didn’t know they had trumps $800 sitting unknown. I have no reason to gouge, but I see no problem making people aware and making a dime off the research they aren’t willing to do. I would think they would be happy to get news of a windfall.

Laura Lee Dominguese
Laura Lee Dominguese
5 years ago
Reply to  Tony

Just a heads up. In order to legally charge people for reuniting them with their own money, in many states you must hold a private investigator credential. If someone reports getting a letter from you about their money and charging them for that service to the state’s unclaimed funds department AND you do not have that credential, you could face criminal prosecution. I’ve been doing this as a hobby for a couple of years, so many of the people I helped for free wanted to pay me that I finally decided to get my agency license and PI credential and… Read more »

Gina Sands
Gina Sands
1 year ago

In California, you do not have to be a private investigator but you do have to register with the SCO to become a money finder. the state send you the 10% once the claimant information is verified and the money recovered. This can be a fantastic oppportunity to a lot of work from home workers who need to make money. If people leave money sitting in the state coffers not knowing about it. Paying 10% to someone who is willing to research/ pay for online information to find them deserves the money. Just my 02

Pam
Pam
12 years ago

Any word on if there is anything like this for us Canadians? 😀

bob
bob
12 years ago

I tried this out too, and managed to find $200 from a title company of a house I purchased in 1994. Thanks for the tip!

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

I found some money too, when I tried to claim it the state said it does not belong to me. So I called Foundmoney.com the lady was very good, she told me exactly what to do. As it turns out I did not enter the correct SSN. I thought all was lost until I called foundmoney.com

K
K
11 years ago

I did went through it all and after five months got a check for $14.51 from a state tax return that I never deposited (I guess). So it’s definitely worth it to try. 🙂

Jane
Jane
11 years ago

This site is not free. I need a totalyy free site. Does anyone know of one?

bob martin
bob martin
11 years ago

Yes if you have a computer and you here about unclaimed property, you do not need a tird party collecting a fee from you. BUT! My friend and I do this for a living and many of the people we locate are 55-over 90 years old. They don’t have computers. Years ago most states printed out a listing of everyone owed money and you didn’t need a computer. The states don’t do this anymore. Why? Because they want to keep as much of the UP money as they can. They brag about how they paid out $24,000,000 in UP last… Read more »

Sharon O'Connor
Sharon O'Connor
4 years ago
Reply to  bob martin

Hi Bob, my father/Arguster Randolph passed away on 01/20/2004. He told asked me for my social security number and the correct spelling of my name because he was leaving me something, but I don’t know what. Where can I start looking?

Juanita
Juanita
7 years ago

Need to know if Hipolito Correa Sir born close to 1917 left some money in banks in Puerto Rico

tanjamorris
tanjamorris
7 years ago

dad died 12-8-06 he was in the United States Army He stated before he died he had an life insurance policy for me and my sibling that we never found His Bday is 3-28-1944 born in Fitzgerald Ga!!! Please help @ [email protected]

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