The States are Holding Over $10 Billion in Unclaimed Funds
By Robert Longley
Have you ever moved without getting your utility deposit back, or forgotten about an old checking or savings account? That money is still yours and you can get it from the state governments. The states have made finding and recovering unclaimed property much easier with online unclaimed property searches and even online claim forms. This feature is designed to provide you with information about unclaimed (escheat) property and links to all available online state property recovery resources. Remember that each state in which you have ever lived may be holding Unclaimed Funds for you.
Can the Federal Government Find Unclaimed Funds for Me?
No. No agency or employee of the U.S. Federal Government can or will help you recover unclaimed property. “There is no government-wide, centralized information service or database from which information on unclaimed government assets may be obtained. Each individual Federal agency maintains its own records and would need to research and release that data on a case-by-case basis.” – United States Treasury Department Each state handles the reporting and collection of unclaimed property and each state has its own laws and methods for recovering unclaimed property.
What is Unclaimed Property?
Unclaimed property can be any financial asset or sum of money that appears to have been abandoned by the owner. Some typical types of unclaimed property include: 1. Utility deposits (very common), credit balances, store refunds
2. Uncashed dividend, payroll or cashier’s checks
3. Stock certificates or accounts, bonds, mutual fund accounts
4. Life insurance policy proceeds
5. Undistributed wages
6. Checking and savings accounts
7. Gift certificates
8. Traveler’s Checks
9. Safe deposit boxes
10. Royalty payments
11. Court payments or deposits
State laws require financial institutions, public utilities, and various other entities to report personal property considered abandoned or unclaimed. The account or property must have been inactive for some period of time specified by state law, and the whereabouts of the owner must be unknown.
You might have unclaimed property in any state where you or your relatives have ever lived or done business. You Might Have Unclaimed Property If . . .
1. You have moved — with or without — leaving a forwarding address. Moving is the main source of abandoned utility deposits and bank account balances.
2. You have retired, been reassigned, or laid off from a job
3. You have not made a transaction on your checking or savings account for over three years
4. You have stopped payments on an insurance policy
5. You have an uncashed check made out to you more than 3 years ago
6. You regularly throw away your mail without reading it.
7. You have noticed that regular dividend, interest, or royalty checks have stopped coming
8. You have settled a deceased family member’s estate
What About Paid Property Search Firms?
Many firms advertise that they will go out search for unclaimed property on your behalf. Many of these firms are totally honest and offer good services. However, watch out for firms that have already found unclaimed property belonging to you and want to charge you to recover it. More often than not, if you can find it, and prove it’s yours, you can claim it yourself. Many states require search firms and heirfinders to be licensed or registered and impose legal limits on how large a percentage of the value of the claimed property they can charge. Always check with the unclaimed property department within your state government before signing a contract with a property search firm.
Millions of Dollars Unclaimed by California Lottery Prizewinners
Unclaimed lottery cash sounds unlikely. How could anything be more thrilling than winning it big? Yet so many ticket holders forget to check that the official California Lottery website has posted a dozen pages of reminders for unclaimed millions covering just the past five months. The next time you buy a <span”>lottery ticket, sign the back and put it somewhere obvious while waiting for the winning number draw. Set an alert on your cell phone to check the number.
Millions at Stake
When the winning SuperLotto Plus $23 million prize ticket was purchased in May 2012 at Michael’s Market & Liquor in Palmdale in Los Angeles County, it went unclaimed for nearly six months. As the deadline approached, an image of a woman taken by a store security camera was circulated. It worked. Her daughter saw the photo, Mom’s car was searched, the lucky ticket was found with just days to spare. In April, an unsuspecting MEGA Millions $52 million winner from Fremont was located one month after his win, as a friend watching the evening news saw Kwik Stop’s surveillance image of him buying that ticket.
Are Liquor Stores Lucky?
Liquor stores may be lucky places for Lotto ticket purchases, or perhaps they simply sell more tickets. They are likely to have surveillance cameras at the cash register, a major plus for forgetful winners. When they do serve a winner, store traffic explodes. The place of purchase receives a bonus of half a percent on the winnings and a steady stream of hopefuls.
In MEGA Millions, the odds for hitting all five numbers and the mega number run 175,711,536 to 1. The odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S. over a lifetime are 3,000 to 1. Those who believe lightning strikes twice — or even more than twice — in the same place should check the list of retailers with a history of multiple million dollar-plus sales. Of the 20,000 California locations, top of the list is Kavanagh Liquors in San Lorenzo, Alameda County, with four big winners so far.
Bags of Unclaimed Cash
Some winners never even find out how much they’ve missed. Ever since Clarence Jackson was three days late turning in his $5 million ticket in Connecticut in 1996, any unclaimed ticket has since been known in the business as a “Clarence Jackson.” Across the nation, approximately 2 percent of lottery prizes in the U.S. go unclaimed, according to Alex Traverso, spokesman for the California lottery. The unclaimed cash in California averages $26 million a year, amounting to a grand total of $750 million since the first year of operation in 1985. The good news is that unclaimed prize money supports the California public school system.
Numbers Grow Bigger Still
Some people, like a California man who won an astonishing $120 million in September 2012, play the same numbers year in and year out. The $52 million winner purchased his tickets regularly. Others are motivated when huge jackpots build up. Perhaps, like me, you’ve never even purchased a lottery ticket? This may make us the odd ones out, as California ticket sales increased by 27 percent in fiscal year 2011-2012 to a massive $4.37 billion.