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We have all seen the ads on television, in print and especially online where they claim you have unclaimed money. You know the saying “If it sounds too good to be true…” Well, in this case there is some truth to those ads. The good news is that there is unclaimed money. The bad news is that you may not be one of those people that actually have unclaimed funds. The failure to claim the money may be as simple as the intended recipient had no idea that he or she was entitled to the money, or as complex as they know the money is out there, they just have no idea how to go about proving it is theirs, and they are who they say they are.
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
Another such source is the Internal Revenue Service. Yes, it is true. Each year, people become eligible for tax refunds. When the IRS attempts to notify these people, however, they find that for some reason the contact information is wrong, or that the person for some other reason cannot be reached. Although it is true that the IRS has access to a number of databases that can determine a person’s whereabouts, sometimes a person remains unnotified.
Beware of Companies Claiming to Have Found Your Money
There are hundreds of websites that claim they can find money for you and millions of emails are sent every day claiming they have already found missing money for you. Normally you would then visit their website to do a search of their database. Nine times out of ten, the search will come back as if they have found money for you and then they require a fee to give you more information. Most times, they actually may have found money belonging to someone whose name is a variation of yours. Be aware that it costs nothing to search for unclaimed money. Many times these websites are only attempting to steal your credit card or other personal information.
Unclaimed money DOES NOT come from the Nigerian widow whose husband left her his millions and she has to get the money out of the country before the corrupt government officials find out about it and take it from her. And, in her quest to ensure that this travesty did not occur, she “just happened” to come upon your e-mail address, and she wants you to have the money.
Neither does unclaimed money come from the package pick-up and delivery company who just happened to have come across a parcel that is addressed to you and for some unknown, unexplained reason did not reach you. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide them with your bank account information so that this unfortunate oversight can be immediately corrected.
Legitimate websites that provide information concerning unclaimed money and explanations as to how to start the claims process are:
Acting in the best interest of consumers, each state has enacted an unclaimed property statute that protects your funds from reverting to the company if you have lost contact with them. These laws instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who will then make a diligent effort to find you or your heirs. Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner.
How to Keep Property from Becoming Unclaimed
- Keep a record of all bank and savings accounts.
- Record all stock certificates and be sure to cash all dividends received.
- Record all utility deposits, including telephone deposits.
- Respond in writing to any requests for confirmation of account balances with banks, stockbrokers and utility companies.
- Prepare a check list of all accounts to be notified when you change your address. Share this list with a family member or trusted advisor.
- Notify your bank, broker, credit card issuers, employer, 401K administrator, insurance contacts, mortgage lenders, doctors, attorney, accountant, investment accounts, and others of your name changes due to marriage, divorce or other legal action.
- Cash all checks promptly upon receipt.