Most unclaimed money is held by the states – about $32 billion at last count. That's because state law requires banks, brokerage firms and other companies that handle people's money to turn unclaimed funds over to the states for safekeeping if they can't locate the rightful owners. So the states are the place to begin your search.
But don't stop there!
The federal government has its own "buried treasure" that you can find, too. And some private entities also have helpful tools for you to try. All but one below are free. If you are asked to pay a large flat fee or a percentage of the unclaimed money you find, you are probably dealing with a professional "finder." It is never necessary to pay a fee or finder for information you can quickly look up on your own.
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Below are a dozen different sources you can search to find your own forgotten money.
1. Your State
The first place you should search is your home state. Unclaimed money is usually -- though not always -- held by the state where the account was originally located. Things like abandoned safety deposit boxes, uncashed overtime checks, and forgotten apartment security deposits. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), a non-profit association that represents unclaimed money departments from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, runs a free website that will link you to any state you want to search. You will find it HERE.
The best part is that you can search for yourself or others without even entering a Social Security or account number Rather, you search the system by name and then verify that it's really you by checking to see if you have ever lived at the corresponding address listed. (IMPORTANT: For those who want to go back to the site later on their own, please note that it is a .ORG site, NOT a .com site. www.unclaimed.ORG.)
2. Other States
Unclaimed money is usually held in the state where the account was originally located, so if you have lived in multiple states, you will want to search all of them. Additionally, in some instances, unclaimed money is held by the state where the business is headquartered. If you are fairly certain that you lost track of money, you could look up where the company is based and search that state. But in the last decade, so many banks and brokerage firms have bought each other or merged that it's often hard to trace.
So here's the solution: There's another free website where you can search 37 states and the District of Columbia all at once. (Not all states participate.) That free site is HERE. When you first search, you are prompted to enter your home state. After that, you have the opportunity to search again. This time choose "all states and provinces" on the drop-down menu. Be sure to look at the map of which states participate, located HERE. If you have lived in one that does not, go back to unclaimed.ORG and search it individually there. To cover your bases for company headquarters, you might choose to search all 13 states that don't participate individually.