One of my clients recently received an email from a company that claims he is entitled to money that has been forfeited to the state. The email said that for a fee they would help him collect his money. They gave him a 100 percent guarantee that the money he would receive would be at least double their fee or he would be entitled to a 100 percent refund. My client asked me my thoughts, and my answer was that it’s a scam and he ought to delete the email.
It is not unusual to get texts or emails from companies claiming that there is unclaimed property in their name and that for a fee they will help you retrieve that property. Although there are legitimate companies that will search for unclaimed property for you, most of these companies are scams.
Every state has a process for dealing with properties that have either been abandoned or unclaimed. Unclaimed property can be something like a bank account that had no activity for a period of time set by each state. Other types of unclaimed property can be such things as security deposits, uncashed dividends and payroll checks, or the contents of a safety deposit box. When States receive this money from banks, landlords and other financial institutions, they act as a custodian for this money. In other words, the state takes custody of the property, not ownership. Therefore, even after the property has been turned over to the State, the rightful owner can claim it.
Searching to see if you have any unclaimed or abandoned property is easy and you can do it yourself. The key is to check all states where you have lived. For example, for those of us in Michigan, we would go to the Michigan Department of Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Department (https://unclaimedproperty.michigan.gov/).To do a search all you need is your name, and best of all, it’s free.
Unfortunately, the databases are state by state, so if you’ve lived in more than one state, you also have to search that site as well. An easy website to use to get the information about each state’s unclaimed property division is to visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrator’s (NAUPA) website at www.unclaimed.org. NAUPA is the organization that represents all 50 states when it comes to abandoned or unclaimed property.
As far as I’m concerned, at least once every couple of years, everyone ought to search the state’s unclaimed property database for lost property. We live in such a busy world that it’s not unusual for someone to forget about a security deposit from a utility company, or a refund check that you forgot to cash. It happens to all of us; we forget about things, and when you think about it, what’s the harm to check? It’ll just take you a few minutes to do the search, and you may be surprised that you’re entitled to something.
If you do a search and you find that you are entitled to money, then it is important to follow the individual state’s procedure to claim your property. Typically, you will need to provide some proof of ownership depending upon the property. That being said, the process of claiming your property is relatively easy, and in most states, it can be done online.
Since it appears that many of us will be home for much of the summer, there is no excuse not to do a search. In fact, when you do the search, particularly if you have any elderly relatives, you can do the search for them as well. Remember, when you do the search it pays to do it in all states where you resided.
Rick is a fee-only financial advisor. If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at email@example.com.