State treasuries, federal government agencies and financial institutions are holding nearly $33 billion in unclaimed funds, waiting for the owners to step forward and claim what is rightfully theirs. After several years, most states require the original deposit holder to pass unclaimed funds to the state treasurer. This money comes from utility deposits, bank accounts, mutual fund accounts, life insurance proceeds and a variety of other financial assets that people neglected to claim when they moved to another state or changed jobs. If you think there might be some lost money out there waiting for you to claim, all you have to do is make some easy inquiries.
Recent Financial Relationships
Begin your inquiries by checking with banks and investment firms that you dealt with during the past few years, especially if you recently moved from another state. Contact them by phone, mail or through their websites. Say that you are a former customer and want to inquire about possible unclaimed funds. If they have something in your name -- a dormant passbook savings account, for example -- they will tell you what to do to prove your identity. If nothing turns up, you can search for funds that would have been transferred to a state treasury.
Who Should Search
This is not pie in the sky. State treasurers report that most of the unclaimed money comes from abandoned safety deposit boxes, overtime checks that were never cashed, apartment security deposits that were left behind and forgotten bank accounts. This means that practically everyone who has changed jobs or moved several times recently could have left money behind.
Use the NAUPA Database
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) exists for the purpose of helping you find your lost money. Go to its website (see References below) and click on the U.S. map provided. Click on the states where you have lived or held accounts and the site will provide search instructions. If you succeed in finding a match, the site will give you all the information you need for making your claim.
Not all states require that unclaimed funds be passed to the state treasury. If you strike out after running a state inquiry, try contacting the city hall of a town or city where you lived before. If the municipality is holding unclaimed funds, it will have a procedure for assisting you.
Charles Crawford, a former commercial banker, has been a business writer in New York since 1990. He has produced marketing materials for an executive outplacement firm, written the quarterly newsletter of a medical nonprofit organization and created financing proposals/business plans. Crawford holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Science in international affairs from Florida State University.