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How to Find Unclaimed Money in the United States

Updated on January 4, 2015

In most states the State Treasurer’s Office has charge of unclaimed property, and they return hundreds of thousands of claims totaling hundreds of millions of dollars annually. It’s possible some of that money could be yours!

Most states do not have the resources to investigate individual cases, and are able to do little more than advertise the names of owners in local newspapers. The resulting void is filled by professional "finders" who locate the owners and charge a fee or commission in exchange for returning it. Sometimes those fees are outrageous, but people are willing to pay them, as the finder has uncovered funds they would not otherwise have, or even know about.

The truth is that with the right information, you can claim that money yourself and avoid falling victim to scammers or having to pay those high commissions. This guide to claiming unclaimed funds contains all the information you need laid out in an easy to follow step-by-step manner. We’ll show you what to do, how to do it, and when and where to file your claim.

Who Could be Affected by Unclaimed Money?

  • Children

  • Widowed Parent or Spouse

  • Former Employees

  • Heirs

  • Memory Loss Patients (people with Alzheimer’s)

  • Royalty Owners

  • Senior Citizens

  • Widows or Widowers

Almost $40 billion is currently held by state treasurers and other agencies for some 121 million accounts. The average person is unaware that they may have unclaimed money, nor do they have any idea of how to claim it. Although the agencies responsible for managing unclaimed money try to make it easy to claim, most people are intimidated by the bureaucratic process involved.


How to Identify Unclaimed Money

There are many types of personal property that fall under Unclaimed Property Laws, but generally they fall into three different categories; securities related property, investment, trading and broker/dealer and fiduciary property, and general ledger property. Under these three major categories come multiple sub-groups as follows:

Securities-Related Property

  • Cash or Stock Dividends

  • Bond Interest

  • PIK Payments

  • Redemption Values

  • Warrants

  • Cash Dividend (ADR), Stock Dividends (ADR)

  • Other Distributions Resulting from Ownership of Interest or Dept. Obligation

  • Un-exchanged Shares

  • Cash in Lieu

  • Bond Principal: Matured and Called

  • Mutual Fund Shares: Book, Dividend Reinvestment or Cash

Investment, Trading and Broker/Dealer and Fiduciary Property

  • Cash Over Receipts (Dividends and Other)

  • Bond Interest Over Receipts

  • Stock Over Receipts (Dividends and Other Memos)

  • Other Distributions Resulting from Ownership of Interest or Debt Obligation

  • Fiduciary Checks

  • Distribution, Expenses, etc.

  • Surplus from Sale of Pledged Property

  • Securities in Customers’ Trading, Investment Trust Accounts

  • Securities Held in a Vault or Storage Area of a Bank

  • Securities Found in a Safe Deposit Box

  • Credit Balances in Trading and Trusts, Brokers, Investment Firms, or Cash etc.

General Ledger Property

Negotiable Instruments

  • Certified Checks, Cashier Checks, Registered Checks

  • Bank Money Orders

  • Drafts, Warrants

  • Travelers Checks, Personal Money Orders

Account Balances

  • Demand Deposits

  • Saving Accounts, Club Accounts

  • Security Deposits

  • Retirement Accounts

  • Matured Certificates of Deposits

  • Collateral Deposits, Unidentified Deposits

  • Remittances and Suspense Accounts

  • Credit Balances Arising from Loans (Includes Liquidated Mortgages)

  • Remainder of Collateral Amounts Credit Balance

  • Consumer Credit Accounts

  • Credit Balances or Cash Due Renters

Insurance Proceeds and Property

  • Limited Age (Superannuated) Contracts

  • Matured Endowments

  • Death Claims

  • Amounts Due under Policy of Non-Life Insurance

  • Refunds and Other Amounts Due Under Policy Terms Companies

  • Accident and Health Payments, Annuity Payments

  • Agent’s Credit Balance

  • Policy Dividends

  • Claims Payments for Liquidated Obligations

  • Experience Rating Refunds

  • Worker Compensation Benefits

  • Stock Over Receipts

  • Any Other Amounts Due Under Policy Terms

General Ledger Items

  • Wages, Payroll Salaries, Commissions

  • Outstanding Checks Issued to Vendors

  • Expense Checks

  • Amounts Owed by Sales and Insurance Finance Companies

  • Pension Checks

  • Credit Checks or Memos

  • Mineral Proceeds

  • Royalties

  • Utility Service

  • Advance Payments for Utility Service Not-Furnished

  • Refunds Due from Insurance Companies

The above listing is not exhaustive, but it covers the vast majority of what is can be claimed as unclaimed property in the United States.

What Does not Qualify as Unclaimed Money in America

  • Electric cooperatives organized under Chapters 6 & 7 of Title 37, and Incorporated municipalities and incorporated municipal boards, counties and county boards of the state
  • Gift certificates, gift cards, or in-store merchandise credit issued or maintained by any person engaged primarily in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail

  • Property held, due, and owing in a foreign country and arising out of a foreign transaction


How to Claim Your Property or Funds

The State Treasurer or equivalent serves as the custodian of funds or property considered abandoned under its provisions. By law, all businesses must check their records on an annual basis to determine if they are in possession of unclaimed funds. If so, they are to file a report with the State Treasurer before November 1 of each year, and turn over their holdings to the State of Treasurer’s Office or State Unclaimed Property Program.

Any individual claiming an interest in any property or funds handed over to the State Treasurer under the Act is entitled to file a claim on forms furnished by the State Treasurer. In most states the process is quite simple, and a claim can easily be filed online. Most State Treasurer’s websites allow you to search their database to see if they are holding any property belonging to you, anyone else in your family, or even your business. The sites also allow you to track your claim and print out copies of your claim forms. Best of all, it is completely free.

To process a claim the state may need one or more of the following:

Social Security Number

Birth Certificates

Death Certificates

Marriage Certificates

Proof of Previous Addresses

Photo ID or Passports

If You Receive a Notice in the Mail

State Treasurer Offices send notices by mail throughout the year to individuals who may have assets in their Unclaimed Property Division. If you have received such a notice, and you are the owner of the property, you merely sign the card above where it says "Signature of Claimant," print your name, and provide the best daytime phone number to contact you by. After signing the card, you return it to the State Unclaimed Property Division with the following accompanying information:

  • A copy of your government-issued photo identification (like your military I.D., drivers license, etc).

  • A copy of something that proves your Social Security number (like your Social Security card, a paystub, a tax return, etc).

If a business is listed as owner of the property on the front of the card you own the business, sign the card as above, print your name, and again provide your best daytime contact phone number. You then return the signed card to the State Unclaimed Property with the following information:

  • A copy of your government-issued photo identification (drivers license, military I.D., etc.).

  • A copy of a tax form or other document proving the company's Federal Employer Identification Number (Tax I.D. number).

  • A copy of your corporate documents (letters of incorporation, LLC papers, business license, etc.) indicating that you are authorized to sign on behalf of the company.

If you are NOT the owner listed on the front of the card you CAN NOT use the mail card as your claim form, even if you are the executor, legal heir, personal representative, or power of attorney for the owner listed. You will have to file a claim using an official claim form which you will find on the State Treasurer's website under " File a Claim Online."

Free Search For Unclaimed Money

If Money Has Not Been Turned Over to the State

There may be money belonging to you or a family member that has not been turned over to the state. That money however does not have the same regulations governing it or protection that money held in trust by the state does. These types of unclaimed funds are known as “Pre-Escheat” and may take some time and effort to find, but it could be worth it in the long run.

You may be contacted by an agency stating that they have found money in your name and for a percentage they can get it for you. Don’t immediately respond to this, as there are steps you can take to uncover such funds and secure them on your own.

In most states unclaimed property must be reported and handed over to the state within a three to five year period. For some types of property however, that period can extend to up to fifteen years. Such funds remain in the hands of corporations until the reporting period is due, and as such you will need to search the corporation itself for your money.

Usually unclaimed money held by corporations remains unclaimed due to mergers or name changes. In the case of mergers, stocks may be split between the two companies, and shares are lost in the process. For this reason you must check the initial incorporation of the company and its history thereafter. Massachusetts, New York, Delaware and Illinois are popular states for the incorporation of companies as laws in those states are favourable, so check those states first.

Trust companies and banks known as “transfer agents” are responsible for informing claimants of capitol changes, and they can be contacted directly. If you suspect you may have money due you because of the above scenarios, you can contact the appropriate agent. Listed below are some of the major transfer agents for the United States and Canada with links to their websites.


American Stock Transfer & Trust

Tel: 1-800-937-5449

Bank Of New York

Tel: (800) 524-4458


Tel: (800) 543-3038

ChaseMellon Services

Tel: 201-296-4463

Fifth Third Bank

Tel: 513-579-4350

First Union National Bank

Tel: 1-800-829-8432

Oxford Transfer

Tel: 1-503-225-0375

Registrar and Transfer Company

Tel: 1-800-368-5948

StockTrans, Incorporated

Tel: 1-800-733-1121

Sky Financial Group - Sky Bank

TOLL FREE: 1-800-576-5007

Tel: 419-327-6300

U.S. Stock Transfer Corporation

Tel: 1-800-835-8778

Wells Fargo-Shareholder Relations

TOLL FREE: 1-800-468-9716

Tel: 651-450-4190


Federal Resources for Finding Unclaimed Money

There are also other state and nation-wide agencies and organizations that may hold unclaimed property for US residents. Below is a listing of Federal Unclaimed Property Offices that should be checked if you are a United States resident searching for unclaimed money or property.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development - If you paid off an FHA mortgage before November 5, 1990, you may be entitled to a refund. Visit the HUD website where they have a Get a Refund search engine.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation - Maintains a database of 12,000 individuals who are owed close to $30million in unclaimed pension benefits. Their website features a Find an Unclaimed Pension Tool that can be searched by name for unclaimed pension funds. The database information about people whom PBGC has not been able to contact and does not contain information about all individuals for whom PBGC provides, or will in the future provide, a pension.

The Social Security Administration also maintains records of individuals who qualify for certain pension benefits. When anyone applies for Social Security benefits, their name and Social Security Number are automatically checked against the pension records database and are informed if there are any matches.

TheEmployee Benefits Security Administration (EBSI) – This agency oversees retirement funds, ensuring that retirees receive the monies due to them. Their website features an Abandoned Plan Search tool that locates terminated retirement plans or retirement plans that are in the process of being terminated. You will need to know the name of the Retirement plan, and employer, as well as the City and State where the plan was implemented.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – When a financial institution is closed by a regulatory agency, the FDIC is appointed as Receiver and is responsible for the payment of insured deposits and the liquidation of the remaining assets.

If you remember a bank account that you had forgotten about you can contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) Division of Resolutions and Receiverships (DRR) at 1-888-206-4662. They are able to assist consumers in tracking down the current location of accounts and recovering their funds.

You can also search a database of failed banks for accounts, including IRAs using the FDIC Search Engine. The search engine is ultra-sensitive to name spellings, so try several variations of your name, for instance; with and without a period after the middle initial, or with and without the middle name or middle initial, etc.

Internal Revenue Service

If you believe that you are entitled to an unclaimed income tax refund, you should contact the IRS for information on how to obtain it. There are two particular types of unclaimed income tax refund:

  • Unfiled Income Tax Return. If you did not file a federal income tax return but believe you are due a refund, you must file a return in order to claim it. The average unclaimed refund is around $550. Federal income tax returns must be filed within three years in order for you to receive any refunds you are entitled to.

  • Filed an income tax return. If you filed a tax return but the check was returned to the IRS as undeliverable (perhaps you relocated and neglected to change your address with the IRS), you should visit their Where's My Refund web page to check the status of your refund and where you can also update your details.

You can also telephone the IRS at 1-800-829-1954. The average amount of returned refund checks is approximately $1,150.

National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits (NRURB) - operated by PenChecks, Inc., the NRURB is the largest processor of retirement plan distributions in the United States. The registry is designed to reunite abandoned retirement plans such as pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and profit sharing plans with their owners.

Their database contains the names of more than 50,000 individuals who are owed retirement plan distributions, most between $500 and $1,000 in value.

Federal Information Center

If you suspect that a Federal agency has money or property belonging to you, but need their contact number, try calling the Federal Information Center at 1-301-722-9000 or the Federal Citizen Information Center at 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636). They can direct you to the Federal office you need to contact.

Life Insurance Company Demutualization

Many of the nation's largest life insurance companies were stated as mutual life companies, which are owned by the policyholders. When these companies became publicly traded firms through a process known as demutualization, shares of stock were issued to the policyholders in exchange for their ownership interest. When the address of the policyholder was unknown, the shares and any dividends were put into a trust fund. There are millions of policyholders, as well as their heirs, who could be entitled to these funds.

Glenn Daily, a fee-only insurance consultant, maintains a database depicting the Reorganization Status of Mutual Life Insurance Companies on his website. If you find your insurance company in the listing and believe you might be owed shares or money from the proceeds of the demutualization, you should contact the company directly. Be aware that if the demutualization happened more than five years ago, you will most likely be referred to the state unclaimed property office.


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