Is there a better feeling than finding an extra $20 bill you didn’t remember putting in your coat pocket, or maybe finding some money behind the couch cushions?
Now, think bigger. What if you had a bank account you forgot about? In a process called “escheating,” the bank turns over whatever funds are in that inactive account to the state treasury, which holds it as unclaimed property. The good news is, you can get it back.
And there’s plenty more where that came from: unclaimed life insurance payments, unpaid wages, refunds, rent deposits… you name it, it could be out there, just waiting to be claimed.
How Much Unclaimed Property is Out There?
Billions. Literally, billions of dollars are sitting in state treasury accounts. It’s estimated roughly $8 billion annually ends up in state coffers, and about 2/3 of it is never claimed. About one in ten Americans have unclaimed property they know nothing about, and that one may be you. But don’t quit your job just yet. Just because there are billions of unclaimed dollars out there, they’re not all yours. In fact, you’re more likely to find $25-100 you didn’t know about.
Where’s My Money
This is going to take some memory power on your part. Think back on all the places you’ve lived. Are you sure you got back all your damage deposits from all the apartments you had? Did you leave a job without a two weeks’ notice to start something better? For that matter, did you live in another town? Or state? These are all good places to start.
Be aware each state has its own rules on how to prove that’s your unclaimed property, but let’s start with your current home state. Do an online search for your state’s unclaimed property office.
You can go wider by doing a multi-state search, especially if you’ve moved. Once you’re there, you can search by your name.
Your Check is in the Mail
A former employer may owe you some unpaid wages, especially if he broke labor laws. The Department of Labor may be able to recover these wages for you. Check it out at this site: WOW Search by Company – Wage and Hour Division (WHD) – U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)
The DOL holds unpaid wages for up to three years.
You may also have some unclaimed pension funds due you from an employer who went out of business or terminated their retirement plan. You’ll need to make a call, but all the information on how to proceed can be found here: Contacting PBGC About Unclaimed Pensions | Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
You’re Out of the Will!
But are you? If a family member has passed and you’re a rightful heir, you should do an online, nationwide search at: www.missingmoney.com
If your relative died in a state that doesn’t participate in missingmoney.com, you can enter a search for that state’s unclaimed property by going to www.unclaimed.org
It’s possible a simple name search won’t reveal anything, but that’s often because there are words before the name, such as “The Estate of”. (1)
Home Sweet Home
If your mortgage was backed by FHA, you may qualify for a refund. FHA refunds are issued by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. You can search the HUD database with your FHA case number.
Where’s My Refund?
It’s possible the IRS owes you money if you didn’t claim your refund, or it wasn’t delivered. Your refund is mailed to your last known address. If you didn’t notify them of a change of address, your refund was probably returned to the IRS. They may also have sent it to an inactive bank account if you didn’t update your direct deposit information.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to check on the status of your refund by visiting the IRS Where’s My Refund page. You’ll need to provide your Social Security number, filing status (single, married), and anticipated amount of refund.
For your particular state’s tax refund, you should go to your state’s online revenue department. You can call the IRS, but wait time to speak to an agent is exceptionally long during tax season.
It’s possible that beloved but eccentric aunt bought you a savings bond when you were born. That money is still sitting there, waiting for you to claim it. Check out: Individual – Treasury Hunt®
Off to the Races
You’re off to a good start with this information, and you can probably think of other places to search for unclaimed property. But be aware, you’ll need to prove your identity before any funds are released to you, and you may have a wait time of 45-60 days, but you’ve already waited this long. What’s a few days more?
1. Leamy, Elisabeth. “Unclaimed Money: Tips to Find Funds From Deceased Relatives.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 20 Sept. 2011, abcnews.go.com/Business/ConsumerNews/unclaimed-money-tips-find-funds-deceased-relatives/story?id=13804279.