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.