The U.S. Treasury's Bureau of the Public Debt is holding 44.7 million matured, unredeemed savings bonds worth $16.3 billion -- and one of them could belong to your family. "Matured" means they have finished earning interest.
"Unredeemed" means the owners haven't cashed them in. When you consider that savings bonds take 20 to 40 years to mature, it's easy to see how people could forget about them.
The good news is that in 2000 the Treasury Department started its "Treasury Hunt" website, where you can search for savings bonds in your family's name.
Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to try it out.
All you do is enter a social security number and the site returns results instantly. Here are additional questions and answers about searching for unredeemed savings bonds that will make your search more productive:
Q: I received savings bonds as a gift. Should I search under my social security number or the person's who gave me the bonds?
A: Both. In 1974, the Treasury started asking for a social when issuing a bond. Gift bonds are allowed to be listed in the name of the giver or the receiver.
Q: I think I bought bonds before 1974. How do I search for those?
A: The Treasury Hunt website only lists savings bonds purchased from 1974 to the present, because it is organized by social security number, and that is when socials started being required. If you believe you may be owed money from an older bond, you can request a hand search by filling out a form here or by calling 1-800-553-2663.
Q: What do I have to do to claim my matured, unredeemed savings bond?
A: If you find a bond for yourself or your family on the Treasury Hunt website, you will be prompted to submit a preliminary claim. (Don't miss this step. Treasury says its Treasury Hunt website has had 350,000 hits based on social security number since it went live, but that only 100,000 people left their contact information, so they could claim their bonds.)
A Treasury Department "finder" will then call you back to ask for more details and research your claim. If you are a match, then either the finder will mail you claim forms to fill out or you can download them from the website.
The claim forms for savings bonds must contain a certified signature. This process involves going to a bank, credit union, etc., presenting identification, and then signing the forms in the presence of a bank officer or notary who then certifies that your signature is valid.
Q: If I think there should be savings bonds in my name, but find nothing, do I have any other recourse?
A: Yes. Every month the Treasury Department adds another half million bonds to the database as they mature, so check back periodically.
Q: I believe I may own bonds that I have lost track of but that have not yet matured. How can I search for those?
A: You, too, can fill out a bond search request form, here, or call 1-800-553-2663. Treasury employees will research your query based on your social security number and other information provided.