March 25, 2011 — -- Working on the consumer beat, I often get to share helpful hints with our audience, but this week was a blast because I got to share cold hard cash with you instead!
I am referring to my story on new ways to find unclaimed money that's out there waiting for you. Things like forgotten apartment security deposits, uncashed overtime checks, insurance company refunds and so on.
The 50 states are required to safeguard this money for their citizens. We set up a card table and a laptop in Times Square and dubbed it our rinky-dink "Good Morning America Unclaimed Money Headquarters." But when we started searching for money for people there was nothing rinky-dink about our results. Honestly, when I took on the assignment, I was dreading the possibility that we wouldn't find anything. To my amazement, we found money for seven out of the 28 people we checked for.
And the wealth keeps spreading! As a companion piece to my "GMA" story on television, I wrote an online article listing all the different places you can check for unclaimed cash. In addition to a free website set up by the 50 states and the District of Columbia, there are several Federal agencies that safeguard unclaimed property.
Jason of New York tried it and got in touch with me to say that it worked! He found missing money for himself and four other family members. Jason himself has money waiting in New York state from Comcast Corporation. He used to own Comcast stock and suspects a dividend check was sent to an old address and never made it to him.
"It was definitely something that I didn't know anything about," Jason said. "And it didn't take very long. And hey, it's your money, so why not?"
Jason said he was hooked and went on to find money waiting in his grandmother's name as well. Chances are the amount is substantial, because the New York State website stated she would be required to submit a notarized affidavit and proof of identity to claim her cash.
Next, Jason enthused to his girlfriend about how easy and fun it is to check for unclaimed money, so she started searching too. Almost immediately, she found accounts listed as belonging to her parents in Connecticut and also New Jersey. Her dad is hoping the mystery money is from insurance claims he submitted after surgery years ago and never heard back on.
Unclaimed Money Fever
And then everything came full circle. Jason's girlfriend found money for Jason's sister, Jen. Are you following this family tree? In this case, the money was in Texas -- where Jen has never lived. To make a long story short, Jen worked at a North Carolina restaurant in college that is headquartered in Texas. Texas is one of the few states that tells you online the actual amount you are owed.
It was $55 in this case, so not big bucks, but still money she didn't know about. Shared tips? Overtime? Who knows? But now Jen can take it to some OTHER restaurant in her new city and state and enjoy a nice meal she never expected.
So there you have it: five members of a single extended family found out they have money coming to them that they knew nothing about! I remain amazed at how common it is. Alas, I myself have no money waiting anywhere because I am way too compulsive and organized to have left money behind! But I don't begrudge you your chance! Here, once again, are all of the free state and federal resources for locating unclaimed money.
How You Can Find Money
There are billions of dollars waiting to be claimed. Fortunately, searching to see if some of that money belongs to you is easy thanks to the internet. Most unclaimed money is held by the states, but some is housed with Federal agencies. In both instances, the government is earning interest on YOUR money. Here's how you can search to claim what's rightfully yours:
If you are searching for things like forgotten apartment security deposits, un-cashed overtime checks, lost insurance refunds or abandoned safe deposit boxes, your first stop is the states. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has set up a free website,www.unclaimed.org that will link you to the appropriate department in your state that holds the funds. NAUPA also endorses a free but on a commercially-run site called www.missingmoney.com. Be sure to search every state where you've lived and every name you have had.
Unclaimed Savings Bonds
It's easy for savings bonds to go unclaimed since they take 30 to 40 years to mature. That's why the Treasury Department has set up a simple search website, http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm where you can find forgotten bonds by typing in your social security number. Certain bonds are not listed online and require a hand search. You can read about them at the same Treasury link.
Federal Tax Refunds
Everybody looks forward to getting an income tax refund check, but if yours didn't arrive, what do you do? The IRS now provides a "Where's my Refund?" feature on its website. You can look up your missing check by entering the amount you are owed plus your social security number. That website is: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96596,00.html?portlet=4
Lost Life Insurance Policies
The proceeds of lost life insurance policies may turn up in your state search. If not, and you suspect you are the beneficiary of a loved one's lost life insurance policy, you can hire a company called MIB Solutions to search for you. MIB is a private company that houses life insurance application information for much of the industry. It costs $75 to search. Go to www.mibsolutions.com.
Failed Bank Accounts
If you didn't collect your money when your bank went under, chances are your account was insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the FDIC is holding your money. Find out, here: www2.fdic.gov/funds/index.aspx.
If your money was in a credit union as it failed, the National Credit Union Association can help you. Check out: www.ncua.gov/resources/assetmgmtcenter/unclaimed.aspx.
If you are owed a pension from a company that went under, simple, there is a Federal agency that safeguards private pensions. Go to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporations website at: http://www.pbgc.gov/wr/trusteed/plans.html.
If your company still exists, or has been bought out, you need to approach the company directly. If you need help, another Federal agency, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, is charged with making sure retirement money is reunited with its rightful owners. EBRI even sues to seize the money sometimes: www.dol.gov/ebsa/.
Sometimes when people leave a job, they leave behind a 401(k) as well. If the company goes out of business, that only compounds the confusion. Fortunately, companies that administer 401(k) plans have teamed up to create a search engine you can try. Here it is: www.unclaimdretirementbenefits.com.