March 24, 2011 — -- Billions of dollars. That's the amount of unclaimed money in the United States waiting to be given back to the rightful owners. The money includes forgotten apartment security deposits, uncashed overtime checks and lost insurance refunds, and it's sitting there, waiting for you.
Banks and other businesses are required to turn unclaimed money over to the states for safekeeping. The 50 states plus the District of Columbia have set up a free website you can use to see whether there are any forgotten funds in your name.
"Good Morning America" decided to try it out.
At the crossroads of America, in New York City's Times Square, we set up our "GMA" unclaimed money headquarters.
Soon, we are in business and I am either a hero or a zero.
At first, we are sweating -- actually freezing -- as we come up with nothing. Nada.
But then, along comes a lucky lady.
Motorola owes her money and the state of New York is sending a check.
It's important to check every state where you have lived. And every name you've ever lived under. Not all state websites tell you how much money you have coming.
Thirty-two minutes into our experiment, we hit a streak.
We found modest amounts of money for several people in a row.
Then a woman approached us who suspected there was unclaimed money in her husband's name. Sure enough, there were funds waiting for him from sort of unused cashier's check. And we suspected the dollar amount was high because the state of New York wasn't willing to blindly send a check. Instead, the state wanted the couple to submit a notarized affidavit to claim their funds.
In a day's work, we conducted 25 searches found missing money in seven of the cases.
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 such as forgotten apartment security deposits, uncashed overtime checks, lost insurance refunds or abandoned safe deposit boxes, your first stop is the states. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has set up a free website at www.unclaimed.org that will link you to the appropriate department in your state that holds the funds.
Unclaimed Savings Bonds
It's easy for savings bonds to go unclaimed because they take 30 to 40 years to mature. That's why the Treasury Department has set up a simple search website, available HERE, 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. CLICK HERE.
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.policylocator.com for more information.
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 (FDIC). The good news, in that case, is the FDIC is holding your money, and you can find out HERE.
Failed Accounts In a Credit Union
If your money was in a credit union as it failed, visit the National Credit Union Association (NCUA) HERE to track down your money.
If your company still exists, or has been bought out, you need to approach the company directly. If you are owed a pension from a company that went under, there is a federal agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), that safeguards private pensions. You can track down your pension HERE on the PBGC website.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), is the Federal agency charged with making sure retirement money is reunited with its rightful owners. The EBSA sometimes even sues to seize retirement money. You can utilize the agency's services by clicking HERE.
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 use to track down your 401(k).