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Please read this entire message…
It is important to note that a few of the links listed are PAY SITES! Most users will not need to use these sites. They are listed for users who pursue finding unclaimed money as a “professional finder”. These sites can be real time savers if that is your purpose. In some cases, using a pay site may be helpful, but unnecessary. If you run into one of these sites, and do not know how to proceed, please contact our support team BEFORE shelling out additional monies.
When speaking of unclaimed money OR property, in this context, we are referring to the same thing. Both terms are used interchangeably.
In most states, real property (jewels, coins, etc.) are usually sold after a period of time at auction, and becomes a cash value rather than physical, real property value.
Since the 1940’s, the Department of Revenue has received BILLIONS in unclaimed property. This is our money sitting in the Unclaimed Property Division/Sections, waiting for the rightful owner to claim. Unclaimed property is moved to the Department of Revenue Unclaimed Property Division/Section generally after 2-5 years before the money is required by law to be turned over to the appropriate unclaimed property division.
Each year, the number of unclaimed property and money continues to grow with current estimates up to $40 billion dollars nationwide.
One of the first questions I always get relating to unclaimed money and property is “how does the money get lost in the first place?”
There are dozens of ways money gets “lost” or “misplaced”. The most common way unclaimed property ends up in government offices is when an owner has moved without leaving a forwarding address. It is likely, the company holding your money tried to contact you, but could not locate your new address. By law companies are required to turn your money over to the state for “safe keeping”.
Types of Unclaimed Funds:
Safe Deposit Boxes
Stocks & Bonds
Savings Bonds and more!
One of my favorite examples for how money becomes misplaced is the following:
Imagine, a relative who has deceased and had a safe deposit box with their local bank which they never told anyone in the family about.
After a period of three years, and no activity on the deposit box, the bank is required to contact the last known address of the owner. However, with 3 years having passed, and the family members selling the home, the banks notification is bounced back “Return To Sender” due to the person (the deceased) no longer residing there.
The bank is then required to turn the contents of the safe deposit box over to the unclaimed property office for safe keeping.
The government is also regulated to find the owner, and they too send a notice to the last known address which will obviously be bounced back to sender.
The final requirement the government must now take is to give public notice, which is usually to place a classified ad in the local paper of the last known address of the city in which the property was reported. The intent of these “tiny ads” is to notify the owner, or owner relatives the State is holding property in their name.
It should be no surprise, unless you read every inch of the classifieds on a daily basis as to why millions and millions of dollars are added to the United States unclaimed property funds each year, and in every state.
After these two steps are completed, your states Comptroller have no other obligation to locate the owner, and in most states will simply wait for you to come claim it!
How does the government attempt to return this money to the rightful owner?
Government offices will attempt to contact the owners of property by sending notices to last known address of rightful owners. If the recipient has moved without a forwarding address, the message is bounced back to the sender’s office, where listings are then REQUIRED to supply public notice of the available funds. As mentioned previously, most states satisfy this requirement by placing ads in local newspapers classifieds. In recent years, it is nice to see some states are making extra effort and will occasionally make announcements over television, radio and listings posted online.
Once these requirements are completed, the Government unclaimed property office simply waits for the rightful owner to make the claim.
Some states will make extra effort to locate rightful owners via the use of websites, cross checking public data, setting up search stations at state fairs or shopping malls, however, the efforts to promote these events are minimal at best. I find it interesting how the government has no trouble locating us when we owe money, but have a dickens of a time finding us when they hold OUR money!
Since the Government couldn’t find you, it’s time you found them!
Search the official online database located at this web address:
To conduct your initial you will not need personal identifying information such as social security number.
However, to process a claim, your state may need one or more of the following:
Social Security Number
Proof of Previous Addresses
Photo ID or Passports
Depending upon the dollar amount, you may be able to process the claim online, and in certain cases, you may be required to have a Notary Public witness (available at most banking institutions for free).
Make a list of EVERY STATE in which you ever LIVED or WORKED. Don’t forget to include states where you had dealings but may not have actually resided. For example, I worked for a company out of Tennessee, whose home office was located in Chicago, Illinois. Though I have never lived or worked in Illinois, since my companies home office was located there, it will be wise of me to include Illinois in my search.
Other search scenarios to consider:
- If you or your family member or friend has lived in one state and do business in another.
- If you have a former address in another state.
- If you attended school out of state.
- If you were employed by a company that is located in a state you may have never lived or worked..
- If your financial institution or insurance company, etc. is located out of state.
Remember to search deceased relatives! Yes, you can make a claim on a deceased relatives claim if you are the next rightful heir. Search yearly for all living and deceased family names.
If you are making a claim for a deceased relative, you will need to obtain a death certificate. Utilize the Vital Records info below for the State of Texas to obtain death certificates:
Include Common Misspellings and Maiden Names
Whether you are searching online or requesting an agent with the unclaimed property office to conduct the search for you, the process to search is the same. An example search for Darren and Sally Green would be as follows:
S Smith (maiden name)
It is actually a good idea to use just the first letter of your first name to start your search, as many names are only entered with the first letter of the first name, depending upon how the claim was submitted to the unclaimed property office. You will then need to scroll through all of the names and locate some identifying information you recognize, such as the last known mailing address supplied with the claim. If the name matches, but the address does not, it is most likely the claim of someone other than you.
Online searches measure only a fraction of actual claims waiting to be made. To conduct a thorough search you should contact each office in writing to ensure an exhaustive search. If your name does not appear in any of the online databases, this does not necessarily mean you do not have a claim. Many users make the mistake of believing online databases list all claims. This is not the case no matter where you search online! If you want all of your money without waiting, this simple step can yield positive results.
I cannot stress this enough…To ensure you locate all claims, including those which may not be listed in the online database, it is highly recommended you contact the state “in writing”, asking them to perform a search for all of your family members. This can be as easy as writing down all the names of your family on a single sheet of paper (no social security of other personal information required to initiate the search) and requesting a thorough search for unclaimed money or property. If a match is found, your unclaimed property office will send the required paperwork needed to prove you are the rightful owner.
Though contacting in writing is not totally necessary, it is HIGHLY recommended your first search to include a physical letter due to many states not having incomplete databases online. Since unclaimed property records date back to the 1940’s, this extra step will ensure a thorough and conclusive search if the unclaimed property agent entered your information correctly.
You will notice I used the word “IF, the agent does their job correctly”. Chances are, the agent will only search for the name exactly as you send to them. So if there are common misspellings of your name, be sure to include those with your letter to ensure proper search. Remember, human beings are physically entering your information into their unclaimed database, and humans can and do make mistakes.
If a match is found, your unclaimed property/money office will send you the proper paper work to prove you are the rightful owner.
You also have the right to visit your states unclaimed property office and conduct the search directly with their office. This may be the best option, as you will have direct access to the records and be able to search all possible scenarios of misspelling possibilities. Be sure to call your unclaimed property office ahead of time as they may require an appointment.
Is There A Single Database Where I Can Search All States?
Some states would lead you to believe there is a central database where they list all of their claims. Here is the cold hard truth…There is not ONE DATABASE anywhere to simply enter your name and search all states at once. No matter what anyone may try and lead you to believe, a single and complete simply does NOT EXIST!
Even by their own admission, the most popular site endorsed by many states, MissingMoney.com, do not have every claim listed, This is an added incentive to go directly to the source holding your money either by visiting the states website, or utilize the direct mailing addresses and phone numbers supplied in this website.
NOTE: Based on the information given above, if your state only links to MissingMoney.com, it is imperative you write (not call) or better yet, visit your unclaimed property office in person. Visiting in person so you can conduct the search yourself armed with the information in this book is unquestionably the best and preferred method to search.
This quote taken directly from MissingMoney.com Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Does MissingMoney.com list all records held by the participating states?
A. No. Some states do not list all of the records in their custody. For example, some states do not list records under a certain dollar amount. Other states only list the most recent property items in their custody, while yet others list only older records. However, we still receive thousands of new listings each month from the participating states.
When you think about how our government works, it quickly becomes apparent as to why we do not have a central and complete database available. In our society, we can barely get along with our neighbors in many cases, so it is no surprise our government offices will not work together to establish a central location to search for our money.
Many people are of the opinion some states (not all) would not be able to balance their budgets if everyone claimed their lost funds at once. Some states do use these funds to pay the bills, so they have an incentive to keep the funds as long as possible.
In recent years, a handful of states have actually started putting time restrictions on how long the money may remain idle before being “given” or handed over to the Treasury to claim as their own. I could rant and rave on this matter for days, but I will leave it saying you should search NOW and every year in order to get what is rightfully yours or your family members.
SEARCH AT LEAST ONCE EVERY YEAR!
About Finders Fees
Not all unclaimed assets are in state and federal databases.
Though these claims will likely be reported to the unclaimed property office EVENTUALLY, some may remain idle for years beyond the date required to be reported. Some states wait up to a year or longer to add those claims to their online database.
Some companies holding your money or property will hire third party companies to locate owners before the unclaimed money is required to be reported. This “pre-escheat” property will find its way into various databases not available to the public and finders are notorious for locating these “hidden” claims and charging percentages to the rightful owner to tell them where it is located.
I have been contacted by a finder wanting a percentage of my claim. What to do?
For “normal” unclaimed property claims, most states have a required 10% cap, with only a few exceptions nationwide. If a finder is attempting to charge more than 10% in most states, they are either operating outside the laws which govern finder regulations or the claim may not have been turned over to government offices.
I am of the opinion, in 99% of all cases, if you utilize the information provided in this book, you will not have to pay any finder to help locate your money.
What if I cannot find a claim which I have been contacted by a finder?
If you have been contacted by a finder who wants to charge you more than 10% of the claim (in most states), there is a high likelihood this type of claim would be considered “pre-escheat”. You can find your states cap rate in the finders regulations section of this website.
When a claim has been turned over to government offices, it is considered “Escheated”
Claims which have NOT yet been turned over to unclaimed property offices are deemed “Pre-Escheat” and do not have the same protection or regulation regarding professional finders. The amount they may charge you as a percentage of the claim is only limited to how much they can convince you to pay.
If you do decide to utilize the services of a finder, it is worthy to note their fees are negotiable. In fact, the closer the money or property time line is to be turned over to the government, finders become more willing to negotiate their fees because they know the claim is about to be turned over to the government where you can find it on your own. I would suggest you wait and find it on your own regardless. However, if you need the funds now, this may be an option to consider if you cannot find the funds following the steps I will outline for you below.
Pre-escheat type claims largely involve stocks and bonds, so if you have ever had these type of investments and a professional finder contacts you and the claim cannot be found in government unclaimed property offices, it is likely a pre-escheat claim.
Pre Escheat property can be tricky and difficult to locate. These type claims may require some investigative work on your part. If you are serious about finding your money and do not mind spending a few minutes on the phone or writing letters when necessary, it may be well worth your time and save you thousands in finders fees.
Takes these steps first before considering hiring a finder:
1 Search your states unclaimed property database
2. Search the IRS to see if you have a refund due.
3. If you banked with a Credit Union, search for CU lost shares
4. Check for Pension Shares. If you worked for a company in the past which is now out of business or ended its benefit pension plan, you may be due unclaimed pension money
Pre-escheat claims are NOT considered normal unclaimed property and do require extra effort by making phone calls and/or writing letters. Though there are thousands of “Transfer Agents” whom operate in this arena, we have narrowed down the top players to a dozen or so. There is no guarantee you will find your claim using this site, but it is worth a shot and may save yourself thousands upon thousands in fees.
How do I keep my property from becoming lost in the future?
Remember, property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. For security reasons, most financial institutions do not forward mail. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits.
– Cash all checks for dividends, wages, and insurance settlements without delay.
– Respond to requests for confirmation of account balances and stockholder proxies.
– If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.
– Finally, prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.
WARNING: Beware of unscrupulous websites out to take your money more than help you find it.
As with any field, there are good and bad companies online. If you have found your name in an online unclaimed money database, this does not necessarily mean you have a legitimate claim. Some online unclaimed money website have been known to return positive “preliminary” results matching your name. Though some of these sites may contain legitimate claims in their databases, many have been found to return results for bogus names like “Super Man”, Elmer Fudd, and made up names which do not even exist. Bottom line is, if you utilize these type databases for your search, even if you do find a legit claim, you may be leaving thousands on the table due to their incomplete list of available funds. If you utilize the resources in this booklet, you can rest assured you are searching the official database holding your money.
In a few states there is a limit after which the state takes the money from the unclaimed property fund and transfers it to the state treasury. Therefore it is important to find your money before this happens. To avoid this pitfall, simply search at least once per year.
To ensure you keep all your rightful money, simply make it a ritual to search every January 1st. It is important to search at a minimum of once per year for every family member, friend, or even stranger if you are so inclined to do so. As millions of dollars are added year round, do not get discouraged if you do not find a claim right away. Millions of dollars are added year round, and though you may or may not find something today, you could literally search again tomorrow and a claim be listed.
This is more fun, free, and with much better odds than Vegas could ever offer!
Good luck wherever your path leads you!