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abandoned funds

Unclaimed Money Frequently Asked Questions


Missing Money
Unclaimed Property

What is it?

80 million Americans are owed a share of $300 billion worth of checks not cashed and non-refunded deposits, forgotten bank accounts & safe deposit boxes, abandoned stocks & bonds, life insurance & retirement benefits not paid, and a host of other financial assets.

Assets become abandoned in the eyes of the law after the owner (or rightful heir) fails to make a deposit or withdrawal on a bank account; forgets to apply for a benefit, insurance policy payout, credit or refund due; holds not cashed any check, money order, or gift certificate; even after a bank or brokerage statement is returned as undeliverable by the post office.

Those left holding the money: banks, insurance companies, employers, unions, brokerages & utilities; even landlords, retail stores & restaurants - are required to turn it over to the "protective custody" of a  government trust account in a process called "escheat." Here it awaits your claim!


How much
 unclaimed money
is out there?

New York is holding $11 billion for millions of residents. Add $8 billion from California, and consider that Florida, Massachusetts and Texas contribute $16 billion more ... well pretty soon it starts to add up to real money!

But this isn't just a "big state" phenomenon. It's happening everywhere. Tiny Rhode Island owes 60,000 residents $60 million! And many accounts involve sizable sums. Recently a Louisiana citizen received a check for $1,026,738 and one lucky Texas resident collected $4,251,987.

A conservative estimate is $40 billion waiting to be reclaimed by 80 million owners. The total is growing by billions more each year - thanks to recent changes in the law and an ageing population. But that's just what states are holding!


No one knows exactly how many hundreds of billions of dollars federal agencies are "safeguarding" but a government report said return of the money owed would "negatively affect the deficit!" Here's a small sample ...

U.S. Postal Service - $26.6 million (uncashed postal money orders)
Bureau of Public Debt - $17 billion (matured but unredeemed savings bonds)
Social Security Administration - $478 million (unclaimed benefit checks)
Internal Revenue Service - $340 million (undelivered & uncashed tax refunds)
Bureau of Indian Affairs - $3.5 billion (unclaimed trust fund payments)
FDIC - $200 million (unclaimed deposits from failed banks)
Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. - $59 million (unpaid retirement benefits)
HUD - $70 million (Mortgage Insurance Premium refunds/Distributive Shares)
Federal Bankruptcy Courts - $200 million (unpaid distributions to creditors)
Securities & Exchange Commission - 3 million lost stockholders


How come
 I didn't know?

Think it couldn't possibly be you? Think Again!

Did you forget about an old bank account, unredeemed savings bond or gift certificate, unpresented check, unrefunded deposit or unused benefit? Were records lost due to theft, fire or flood? Maybe you never even knew you were named an heir or beneficiary in a relative or friend's will or life insurance policy, or that you were entitled to a settlement from a class action lawsuit!

If you've moved, changed your name after marriage or divorce, or switched jobs over the years, it can be difficult to find you. And often being declared "missing" results simply from computer or clerical errors, or the expiration of a post office forwarding order!


bottom line?

  • Refund checks typically average $800-$1000, but many are for substantially more.
  • There is no "national database" of unclaimed funds, despite what you may have heard.
  • Legal notices in newspapers contain only a small fraction of accounts actually available for claim.
  • Assets may be held just about anywhere, regardless of where you now live.
    Assets owed by the federal government (savings bonds, IRS refunds, Social Security and VA benefits, etc.) are not included in state databases.
  • Foreign nationals may need to follow special procedures to locate and claim lost assets.
  • Certain types of assets are excluded from public databases, and won't show up on missing owner lists.
  • Government agencies holding funds have a strong incentive not to contact owners or heirs ... cash not claimed is transferred to the general fund and may be spent.
  • There are time limits on some types of claims, so you need to act promptly.

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