5 On Your Side

'Missing money' find reveals flaws in notification process

Posted July 29, 2009
Updated July 30, 2009

Whenever money or property is considered "abandoned," businesses and agencies are required by law to turn it over to the state.

WRAL News has done many stories where people were thrilled to find out the state was holding money for them. The Craders were a different story. They were shocked and then angry. They didn't think their money was missing at all!

Margie Crader 7/29/09 missing money Woman suprised to learn money was missing

Margie Crader's bank, RBC, closed her savings account and sent the balance to the Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division. The Craders had no idea that more than $40,000 was gone until Five on Your Side called them.

"I said, 'Oh my gosh. RBC Bank gave my money to the state,'" Crader recalled.

She was planning to use the money for a new, screened-in porch.

"We would have written checks to pay for it out of that account because that's where we were gonna get the money from because that was the place that had the money that had been there the longest," she said.

Crader said an RBC representative said the account was closed because of "inactivity” and the money was sent to the state as required by law. The representative told her the bank sent a letter about it.

Crader said she never got a letter, and the bank could not produce a copy.

"I'm feeling pretty confident that I did not get it, because I am very careful with the mail," she said.

When Five on Your Side called RBC, spokeswoman Dorsey Landis told us she can say with certainty that a letter was sent. She added RBC "makes every effort to contact the client."

Crader disputes that even if a letter was sent, the bank should have tried harder to reach her.

"I think due diligence is more than one try at it," she said. "We've been in the same address with the same phone number all these years. It would have been very easy to get a hold of us."

That's the case with many of the roughly one million people who have "unclaimed property" held by the state. Five on Your Side has contacted dozens over the years.

Crader said it shows businesses and agencies should have to do more to locate owners. "It needs to be changed so that people are notified," she said.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who oversees the Unclaimed Property program, said, "Before a holder of property can turn that property over to the state, they are supposed to make a good faith effort to find the owner of the property."

But the law doesn't define "good faith effort." It only requires a letter be sent. The treasurer doesn't feel the problem is big enough to warrant a change.

"This is all tax-payer supported and free, so I guess there is a balance between how many instances are there and do you want to take more of your resources at what may not be significant," she said.

The state sent Crader a check for the $41,804 she was owed. She just hopes this "missing money" mess will make others pay attention.

"It's scary. It is scary that anybody can do that to you," she said.

Landis said this year RBC started sending two letters warning when funds are about to be turned over to the state. As for why they don't call, Landis says customers are often leery about phone calls regarding their finances.

All of this is a good reminder to not only pay close attention to your accounts, but to also find out if the state is holding money for you. You can search online any time.

 

The State of North Carolina considers accounts abandoned if there hasn’t been any customer activity for 5 years for checking and savings accounts and 10 years for CDs.

9 Comments

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  • Desiderata Jul 31, 2009

    Banks are in business NOT for the people, but for themselves, and apparently nothing is too low enough for them to go to get more money from "customers'...Just changed to the states Credit Union after having dealing with Bank of America ....I will NEVER trust a "Bank" again!

  • FragmentFour Jul 31, 2009

    RBC is a great institution to stay away from. This isn't the first time they've tried this stunt, and it won't be the last.

  • itsmyownopinion Jul 31, 2009

    nosmo_king: "Whatever happened to personal responsibility? It's common sense to review your banking and other financial statements on a monthly basis. I think you only have 60 days to dispute a charge on your credit card bills."

    While it's not the case for this story, what about older people suffering dementia or other health problems, who have no family or no one appointed to look after them, who socked their money away in various accounts they may have forgotten? Not everyone has the capacity to take personal responsibility.

  • nosmo_king58 Jul 30, 2009

    Whatever happened to personal responsibility? It's common sense to review your banking and other financial statements on a monthly basis. I think you only have 60 days to dispute a charge on your credit card bills.

  • Tax Man Jul 30, 2009

    This is an area of the banking law that needs to be changed! Before they close an account the bank should be required to have proof the depositor was actually contacted. Certified mail or a phone call that is recorded should be necessary. My son had Wachovia note his free student checking/savings account was "inactive" and then began charging $5 per month per account until they used up all his funds - then began charging $35 overdraft fees! He had $13 in his account linked to his school (UNCG) - it is summer and he is out of school - we only used the account to transfer money for books, etc. And Wachovia wanted him to pay all the fees! Even turned it over to a collection agency. We did get it straightened out but it was not easy! These banks have our money - they should be subject to OUR rules, not theirs!

  • concerncitizen Jul 30, 2009

    I guess I must be stupid, but I don't get why the bank would do anything with their money? What do they mean inactive, it's a savings account? Shouldn't they be paying interest on the money?

  • scjabr Jul 30, 2009

    Oh, I can't wait to hear all the crying that will come about when a law is passed that requires account holders to access their accounts at least once or twice a year to remain active. Yes, there should be "due diligence" to contact account holders, but one shouldn't expect to stick some money into an account and not check on it for years on end. Even a look online should be enough to prevent an inactive status. At least the money isn't totally relinquished by the owner and there is a way to get it back!

  • mochabrown Jul 30, 2009

    Strange how banks can do this to your money, but let you owe them some money, they'll send all kinds of collection agencies after you.

  • oakmont Jul 29, 2009

    RBC closed my personal account without notice or letter for the same 'inactivity' reason. Luckily, there was little money in the account, but no notice or letter.