Tens of billions of dollars that actually belong to ordinary people like you are being held by the government - quite legally. Some of it may be yours or may have belonged to a relative of yours who has passed away. Without spending a dime you can find out how to find unclaimed money - you do not need anyone to help you for a fee!
Do you find it hard to imagine that so much money could be going unclaimed? Actually the “unclaimed propery”, as the government calls it, comes from a variety of sources and a few examples will make it easier to understand:
Sometimes U.S. Savings Bonds – which take 30-40 years to mature – get tucked away and forgotten, lost, or thrown away by mistake. A check may have been mailed to you at a previous address and never forwarded. Perhaps a relative lost an insurance policy that named you as a beneficiary and you have no idea if it exists or where to find it. Maybe there's a life insurance policy out there that you don't even know exists, but you're one of the beneficiaries. Or you may never have collected on an insured account you held in a bank that failed.
Whatever the reason money goes unclaimed, the government requires it be turned over to them in order to safeguard the funds. They have actually done a good job making it reasonably easy to find out if some of it is yours:
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Are you owed past wages? The Department of Labor takes on responsibility to help you get paid past wages that were due to you but not paid. When they discover violations at an employer, they attempt to find employees due back pay. If they are not successful they hold those wages for a period of three years while they continue their search. After those three years if they haven’t found the employee they are required to forward the money to the U.S. Treasury. If you believe you may be owed past wages you can search names of employees with unclaimed wages due. Just go to the website of the Department of Labor and in their search bar enter “WOW search”. (WOW stands for Workers Owed Wages.)
Don’t pay for an unclaimed money search. It is exciting to know there may be some money out there that is rightfully yours. The additional good news is that your search for unclaimed money should be free. With only one exception that we know of, the sites where you are most likely to find your money do not charge you to search. You do not need to pay a search agent a fee—which can be as much as 70% of any money they find for you, with cash sometimes required up front! So regardless of how slick their pitch may be, or how convincingly they claim to have “secret” sources, don’t fall for it. Just follow the guidelines below and see if you get lucky:
Get creative with your name. The start of your search on most sites will be entering your name. Before you begin your search, sit down and make a list of every possible variation of your name that you can come up with. Start with your first and last name, then add your middle initial, then use just your first initial and then your first and middle initials along with your last name. Misspell your name in many different ways. This may sound like a bother but it really won’t take you that long and could be worth some cold hard cash. Get family or friends involved and make a game of it! When you go to do your search, try each variation individually and keep a record of which sites you have searched the names you searched. This list will come in handy not only for keeping track of your progress now but also when you repeat your searches every three to six months. Unclaimed Property sites are updated regularly so don’t do your searches just once and forget about it.
Start with the States. Most unclaimed money is held by individual states. These funds include (but are not limited to) things like old apartment or utility security deposits, forgotten bank accounts, dividend checks, uncashed insurance policies, abandoned safe deposit boxes, shares of stock, and much more. Each state has its own department that handles Unclaimed Property (Property in this case means money!) — you can find any state’s site simply by searching the term “unclaimed property” and the name of your state. Or go to the free website unclaimed.org (be sure you use .org, not .com!) and you will find a link to the appropriate department for each state. Don’t limit your search only to the state where you now live — you want to search every state where you have lived in the past, even briefly or while on military duty. A number of states plus Washington DC can be searched at once on the free website missingmoney.com, but be sure to see our review of missing money.com and what's really behind it first!
Search Federal Agencies.
- Start with a search for lost or forgotten U.S.Savings bonds by visiting the U. S. Treasury Department’s “Treasury Hunt”. Just go to treasurydirect.gov and, under Individuals, click on “Check Treasury Hunt to see if you own matured savings bonds.” If you find your name (or a reasonable variation of it) you can fill out a form that is on the web and mail it to the address provided. If you are the heir of a person who originally owned the bond you will have to provide that person’s social security number as well as legal documentation of your relationship.
- If you had an account in a bank or credit union that failed, you can check the appropriate insuring agency to see if they are holding the money from your account. Go to fdic.gov for banks and ncua.gov for credit unions.
- If a company that owed you a pension went out of business you can look for your money by searching the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) at pbgc.gov. Be sure that you worked for a private company and that you participated in a “defined benefit” plan — i.e. one that promised a monthly payment amount.
- If you were due a tax refund that you never received just go to irs.gov and click on “Where’s my Refund?”. You’ll need to provide the dollar amount of the refund as well as your social security number.
* Search Private Sources.
- If you left a company where you had a 401(k) and the company is no longer in business you can look for your funds on a free site maintained by a group of companies that administer these plans at unclaimedretirementbenefits.com
- If you think you are the beneficiary of a lost insurance policy and you didn’t find it in your search of state Unclaimed Property departments, there is another option. It's the only one on our list that does charge a fee ($75) for a search. Learn more at policylocator.com.
- Do It All Again! Keep notes, mark your calendar, and do it all again! These databases get updated regularly and sometimes frequently. So if you don’t find anything the first time, try try again. Some folks recommend searching quarterly; at a minimum do your search at least once a year. Make it a birthday tradition and good luck!