5 On Your Side

'Missing money' find reveals flaws in notification process

Posted July 29, 2009 4:26 p.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2009 12:38 p.m. EDT

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'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.