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What is unclaimed money or property?

According to NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators), unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer over-payments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

Why unclaimed money or properties exist?

Unclaimed property law in US has been around for almost 70 years which is one of the consumer protection programs of US Government. Without this law, all unclaimed money will revert back to the financial institutions or companies and the owner of accounts will not even know about it. When you change address and you failed to update institutions or companies you have dealt with in the past, there’s a chance they are trying to contact you bu unable to reach you. When a person dies and his immediate or close families are not aware of all his investments or life insurances, it will add up to unclaimed money. If someone died and left properties or money to uninformed heir, it will add up to unclaimed money too.

The law basically instructs institutions or companies to surrender forgotten funds to state officials who will then try to find you or your heirs for free or minimal handling fee. For real properties, state will auction them after certain period of time and hold the funds for you. This happens because government cannot store and manage every unclaimed property that is turned over to states.

Last year, US Government gave away stimulus checks to help Americans struggling because of recession. Would you believe that there were 279,000 stimulus checks unclaimed because of incorrect or incomplete address? The average amount per check is $580 and the total amounted to over $160 million. This is just an example how unclaimed money accumulates.

How do you begin searching?

List down every address in every state you have resided and go to www.unclaimed.org to start your search. Most state also participates in www.missingmoney.com so this site is also recommended. Keep in mind that legitimate sites will not ask for fee to provide you the information. You can also search for other members of your family or deceased loved ones.

There are several business firms that will charge you a certain percentage of the unclaimed money they found for you. But don’t fall for a Nigerian widow whose husband left her his millions and asking for your help… that’s clearly a scam!

So start spending a few minutes to search for you and your family’s unclaimed money. What have you got to lose if you try to search for unclaimed money? As long as it’s free… a few minutes of your time and who knows what you might find.


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