Missing money could be just a click away
Posted August 18, 2008
Raleigh, N.C. — So far, 5 on Your Side has found $250,000 in missing money for viewers. But lots more money goes unclaimed every year – although most is just a free Internet search away.
Almost $33 billion in unclaimed property sits in state treasuries around the country, waiting to be claimed.
"It could be a bank account you forgot to close. It could be a dividend check that never reached you," Consumer Reports staffer Greg Doughtery said. "It could be money belonging to a relative who's died and would have left it to you, but somehow, it's been lost along the way."
Five on Your Side viewers are among the approximately 1 million North Carolinians with $700 million in the state Treasury Department's custody.
"It like, 'Wow! Wait a minute. That's my name. That's my address. That's me!'" said Pam Hathaway, of Holly Springs. She checked for unclaimed money after seeing a 5OYS report and found $2,345 that belonged to her in Kentucky.
Bill O'Connor, of Cary, said finding more than $4,000 in unclaimed stock returns helped him through being laid off.
"it was a shock – especially at a time when I could use the money," O'Connor said.
Even state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkins has benefited from 5 on Your Side's efforts to turn over unclaimed money.
"As someone who watches over one's checkbook very carefully and watches over other people's money very carefully, I would never have thought that I had unclaimed cash," Atkins said. But she did – $1,350.
Of course, 5 on Your Side can't call everyone, but the Internet makes claiming the cash fairly easy.
Neither site charges for its services. Beware of finder firms that want to charge to claim your funds.
Once on the legitimate, free Web sites, just fill in some basic information, including your name and the state treasuries you want to check.
"When I entered my own information, I didn't find anything belonging to me, but I did find some money belonging to a great-aunt of mine who has since died and would have left it to me," Doughtery said.
If you find a match, contact the state directly and follow the directions provided. Most states require proof of ownership, such as a Social Security number or proof of a previous address.
And once you file the paperwork, be prepared to wait.
"It can take a while to get money, but it's no faster if you go through one of the finder firms. In fact, all they may do is give you information you could get online anyhow for free," Doughtery said.
In 2006, states distributed more than $1.7 billion in unclaimed property.
A lot of unclaimed funds sit in federal coffers, as well. However, the federal government doesn't have a central database for unclaimed money, so you need to search different sites based on the source of the money.