What is Unclaimed Money & How Do I Find It?
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The thrill of pulling out a jacket from last season, putting your hand in one of the pockets, and unearthing a $10 bill is unmistakable.
Some people–including yours truly–even get excited when they notice loose change on the sidewalk.
What if there were hundreds of dollars waiting for you somewhere? If you’re part of the 10% of people who have unclaimed money tied to their name, that could be the case.
It’s time to explore precisely what unclaimed money means, determine if unclaimed money is legit, and figure out how to find yours.
What is Unclaimed Money?
Sometimes called unclaimed property, unclaimed money results from inactivity or no contact related to various accounts people set up. These accounts could be tied to employment, investing, housing, or other aspects of your finances.
If an account owner doesn't make contact and there’s no activity in an account after a specific duration, that property or money is considered unclaimed, and the money is turned over to the state.
Types of Unclaimed Money
Unclaimed funds exist in many forms. The most common type of unclaimed money is intangible, though some people may also have unclaimed property or unclaimed funds in tangible forms.
Basically, that means you’re a lot less likely to find an actual $10 than you are to find a digital form of money or property.
Intangible unclaimed money includes:
- Savings or checking accounts
- Uncashed paychecks
- Tax refunds
Tangible unclaimed money is usually in the form of cash or alternative investment assets found in safe deposit boxes, including:
Unclaimed Money Scenarios
The idea of simply finding hundreds of dollars of money or property seems implausible to many people. But it’s actually much more common than you think.
Many times, unclaimed money is the result of a change of address.
Let’s imagine that Alexa found herself in a situation where she had to move out of town quickly and, as a result, quit her job. However, she left no forwarding address with her employer after picking up what she thought was her last paycheck. But in fact, she was owed for another 10 hours of work.
Unfortunately, she did not receive her pay as the company could not locate her.
If that still seems unlikely, let’s consider a variation of that scenario. This time, Alexa still makes an abrupt move.
It’s late spring, and she’s in a hurry to settle into her new life quickly. Alexa filed her taxes weeks or months ago, and she was expecting a small refund through the mail.
While many people expect their mail to be forwarded to a new address, tax information, including refunds, generally is not. Amidst all the shuffle, it may not dawn on her to look for her refund.
Is Unclaimed Money Legit?
Unclaimed money is indeed legit. In fact, 1 out of every 10 people is due some type of unclaimed property or unclaimed money. However, there are financial scams related to unclaimed money you need to be aware of.
Avoid Fees and Scams
When you’re collecting your unclaimed money, you should not be paying fees.
In recent years, scammers are requesting everything from cash and credit card numbers to bank account information and gift cards.
USAGov says you should never acknowledge any call or notice saying to collect your unclaimed money pay a fee.
Another way people are victims of scams regarding unclaimed funds has to do with returning phone calls. Scammers send emails or leave voicemails promising thousands or even millions of dollars. They promise you can claim the money through a simple phone call.
Often, these phone calls are toll numbers, and the scammers make their money by keeping people on the phone as long as possible.
To stay safe, both the United States government and legitimate unclaimed property groups emphasize that they do not do outreach.
If you want your unclaimed money, you go to them. That means you can disregard any email or phone call you receive regarding unclaimed money.
Where Do I Find Unclaimed Money and Property?
You can locate unclaimed money or unclaimed property in different ways depending on the type of unclaimed funds it is. According to USAGov, Americans can locate unclaimed money in five different ways:
- A particular state
- Various employers
- Insurance refunds
- Tax refunds
- Banking and investments
While it might seem like you need to work with a company or hire someone to help you locate the money or property, there are official databases to help you search with just a few clicks.
Remember that unclaimed money is returned to individual states. Additionally, you should note that there’s no federal database.
Finding Funds with Your State
When it comes to unclaimed money, there are state-specific procedures. For instance, each state has its own unclaimed property office.
You can also use a multi-state database to search for money or property in your name. However, you should be aware that not every state participates in the collective database.
If your name appears on any database, you’ll need to follow directions from your state as to how you claim your money.
- Find your state on a map and start searching for unclaimed money.
- Access a multi-state database and search several locations at once.
Other Ways to Locate Unclaimed Funds
In addition to using state databases to look for unclaimed money, there are other ways to search. Here are some of the databases that you may want to try.
- Workers Owed Wages – The US Department of Labor hosts this database that allows you to search for unpaid wages. It’s worth noting that after three years without a claim, the money is sent to the US Treasury.
- PBGC Unclaimed Plans Search – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is a US Government Agency dedicated to helping people find money they’re owed from their pensions. This typically applies to individuals whose company went out of business or terminated their pension plans.
- Unclaimed Funds – The US Department of Veterans Affairs created a database allowing policyholders or beneficiaries to look for insurance funds that were supposed to be paid out. If they’re unable to locate the veteran or their heirs, they report the funds as unclaimed.
- Does HUD Owe You a Refund? – The US Department of Housing and Urban Development put together a database allowing people who had FHA-insured mortgages to search for unclaimed insurance refunds.
- Where’s My Refund? – The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers to check on the status of their tax refund. If you were expecting a refund but it never showed up, this is a good place to check. You’ll want to follow a similar procedure for state tax refunds.
- Unclaimed Funds – One of the most significant advantages to modern banking is that many–but not all!–accounts are FDIC insured. That means, even if the bank closes, the FDIC guarantees your money up to a certain amount. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation allows you to search this database for unclaimed money. Access a similar database for failed credit unions that were federally insured.
Final Thoughts on Unclaimed Property
Unclaimed money is a legitimate thing. While there are scammers making false claims about unclaimed funds, there's a genuine chance you or someone in your family are due money.
To find your unclaimed money, be sure to search thoughtfully and remain reasonable.
The promise of thousands or millions of dollars is undoubtedly much more alluring than the reality, which is that you’ll likely only discover hundreds of dollars if anything at all.
Still, if you think finding money in your pocket or on the ground is exciting, imagine the thrill of finding legitimate unclaimed money waiting for you online.
You can use your newly found money to help pay down debt, boost your savings or emergency fund balances, or even put toward some much-needed self-care.
Article written by Penny