5 On Your Side

Letter leads Durham woman to missing money

Posted December 18, 2008 2:31 p.m. EST
Updated December 19, 2008 7:36 a.m. EST

— A letter from 5 on Your Side helped a Durham woman claim thousands in missing money, but millions more dollars sit unclaimed in state treasuries.

The North Carolina Department of the State Treasurer has about $700 million in unclaimed property that belongs to about 1 million residents. Most comes from forgotten accounts and refunds with banks, insurance companies and doctors who couldn't find the money's rightful owners.

For Nell Burch, finding out about the unclaimed money in her name was a surprise.

"How often does something good fall from the sky? Almost never," Burch said.

Staff with 5 on Your Side found Burch's name on the list of people with unclaimed money, but couldn't track down her phone number. So, they sent her an old-fashioned letter.

"I was skeptical," Burch said. "I saw an envelope from Channel 5, and I wondered what it was doing in my mailbox. So I opened it and I read it, and it said that I had missing, unclaimed money."

When Burch called 5 on Your Side, she found out it wasn't a hoax.

"You know, I really did think it was a fake, so imagine my surprise when I called and I really got TV 5 News," she said.

Burch got another surprise when she learned of the amount of money unexpectedly coming her way: $2,339.79.

"I was astonished. I couldn't believe that it was possible to overlook money in that amount," she said.

Most of the money came from an old insurance policy the company should have refunded years ago. Now, Burch said, it will probably go to buy something special.

"I haven't given it much thought, but maybe something to make 2009 a little brighter, some little treat. Maybe a big-screen TV, who knows?" she said.

Burch said he hopes others will spend a moment checking to see if they have unclaimed money. She did – and found money belonging to her uncle.

So far, 5 on Your Side has helped viewers claim more than $260,000.

You can check for unclaimed money in-state or nationally. You can also call North Carolina's Office of Unclaimed Property at 919-508-1000.