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. Here's how to look for your property:
Discover your program today!
May 2018 Update
Do you own mutual funds? Apparently you may be more in danger of those funds getting turned over to your state than you or with other accounts. This is most likely because after a certain time period of no activity funds must be turned over to states, and you may not think to contact your mutual fund on a regular basis. It’s a good idea though, even if you’re just checking on a balance and not necessarily requesting a withdrawal. And you don’t have to make a phone call. It should count as contact if you log in online to make your request or review a balance. Also be sure the fund has your accurate address as accounts must be turned over if a letter or notice is returned with no forwarding address.
Update March 2017 Heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? Have fun and keep your eye on your wallet - big crowds and plenty of alcohol can be jackpots for pickpockets. If you live in Louisiana or ever have, and you’d rather spend your time and energy bringing in some extra cash, try looking for unclaimed money that is rightfully yours! The state of Louisiana held (and making money off of!) more than $96 million in unclaimed property - much of it cash - in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Only about a third of it was returned to owners. It’s never too late to claim yours: the state’s Unclaimed Property Division says they return money all the time that they’ve been holding for twenty years!
July 2016 Update We've mentioned that the states are holding billions of dollars worth of unclaimed money. But did your realize they are sitting on – and earning (lots of) money from $60 billion, according to Money Magazine? With budgets under pressure it's got to be pretty tempting to spend the least amount of effort trying to find rightful owners. So it's up to you to take the initiative and do some searching – beyond just going to one web site.
Maryland is one example of a state doing something to try and find the rightful owners of more than $1.5 billion they are holding in unclaimed property. While most states have sites where you can search for your name, Maryland does a yearly update of their list of unclaimed money and items and you can also search your name. They offer a toll free number for help if you do find something in your name or someone in your family. They also use newspaper advertisements and videos on the web along with mailing, news campaigns and other programs to be proactive in finding owners. That is refreshing given the amount of money most states are earning by being more passive about finding owners of this property.
Tempted by the Free Money Book? Maybe you've heard people talking about it but does it give you anything you can't find for free? Perhaps. First take a look at our review and you can determine whether it's right for you (we could save you some money!) And if you do decide to get the book, it appears that it's safer to buy it from Amazon than to order in response to an ad….
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.)
How's Your Record Keeping?: If tax time is driving you crazy because you’re not a very good record keeper, here’s some extra incentive to get your act together. If you’ve lost track of some assets - or if there are some you don’t even know about - your state could be making a lot of money off of money that is rightfully yours. Billions (seriously, $billions!) go into state treasuries each year. They’re required to try to find the owners, and some states put a little effort into it. But think about it — what’s their real motivation to find you? Knowing how and where to look — and having a systematic way of going about it — could help you find money your state is holding for you:
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.
For instance, it's important that you check your state's unclaimed property site to do a search and see if they could be holding unclaimed money in your name. But you shouldn't just check the state you live in now. You need to check every state where you have lived, even if it was just a temporary military or other assignment. That probably sounds like a hassle, to do the research to find the right search site for each of those states. But it desn't have to be! The states have teamed up to form a site that will link you to the appropriate department in whatever state you choose – easy! The site is unclaimed.org. But beware: be sure you use ”.org” – otherwise you'll get a site that will charge you a fee. That's not necessary to find your cash. 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.
Unclaimed Money for Businesses: What about unclaimed property for businesses? Actually this is an interesting case: in many states they do not benefit from unclaimed property laws. States claim that business entities don’t need the same type of protection as individuals. They assume that a business should be in a position to make sure that they take care of their rights to property so taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay to protect them. So if you’re a business owner, be sure you are tracking all your property diligently. Laws vary widely from state to state, so you may want to check and see what the case is where you live.
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!
Note: if you're feeling like it's all just to much work, pull yourself together! There are literally billions of dollars being held by the states and there are amazing stories of people coming into money they had no idea they had. An unknown inheritance or life insurance policy, a forgotten savings account from when you were a kid, even money stuffed in the cushions of an old couch people haven't been able to find the owner for because of a misspelled name. Put your strategy together and follow the tips above step by step … maybe we'll be hearing a story about you on the news some day…