Unclaimed Money: Myths and Facts

The truth behind five myths that keep people from claiming their own money

ByABC News
February 16, 2012, 2:28 PM

Feb. 17, 2012 -- We at "Good Morning America" have been reuniting people with their unclaimed money for about a year now with our series "Show Me the Money."

But we'd love it if you'd put us out of business by searching and finding your OWN unclaimed money!

Full Unclaimed Money Coverage: 12 Sources of Unclaimed Money, Plus 10 Tips to Find Your Unclaimed Cash Today!

Here are some Unclaimed Money Myths that keep people from getting the money - their own money — that they deserve.

Myth #1: There will never be any unclaimed money for me.

Fact #1: Approximately 1 out of every 10 Americans has unclaimed money waiting out there, somewhere, for them. And if there isn't any now, as you go about your financial life, you could lose track of some money later. To prove this point, we searched for unclaimed money for the largest list of names/addresses we had access to: the GMA staff. Guess what? We found a total of more than $43,000 for well over 10 percent of our staff.

Myth #2: You have to be rich to be owed unclaimed money.

Fact #2: That is SO wrong, but we hear it all the time. On the contrary, rich people probably have professional accountants and lawyers who keep track of their money. The rest of us have to muddle through on our own. If you have ever banked anywhere, rented anything or bought something, there could be unclaimed money in your name. If you've ever put down a utility deposit, there could be money. If you've ever given a gift card that the recipient didn't use, cha ching, more chances for unclaimed money. The list goes on…

Myth #3: You have to have Social Security numbers and account numbers in order to search.

Fact #3: Not at all! The main free websites where you will begin your search ask you to search using your name and then verify using your address or past address. It's a cinch. It's so basic you can look for friends, relatives and even loved ones who have passed away and might have left something the family can claim. The first free site to try is www.unclaimed.org (WARNING: that's .ORG not .com). The second is www.missingmoney.com which allows you to search several states at once.

Myth #4: You will have to give a percentage of your unclaimed money to whoever found it for you.

Fact #4: There are hundreds of people called "finders" who have made a business of searching for unclaimed funds for other people and then contacting them to say they've found money and will only reveal where and how much if the recipient agrees to give them a cut. Don't fall for it. Occasionally finders can be helpful in truly tricky cases, but you shouldn't pay for information you can look up for free in 10 minutes, using the websites above.

Myth #5: Claiming your money is difficult.

Fact #5: If you find unclaimed money online, most states let you click a link and claim the money right there and then. You will receive a check within weeks. If the state makes you jump through more hoops than that, like sending in notarized paperwork via snail mail, consider yourself lucky. That often means you are owed a LOT of unclaimed money and they are taking more precautions to make sure it is really yours before releasing it. Even unclaimed savings bonds are easy to get. You search www.treasuryhunt.gov by social security number and if you get a hit, a federal worker actually CALLS you to walk you through the paperwork. What other federal agency provides THAT kind of service?

To get started on your own search, click HERE.