You pull out an old pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a while and put them on. Walking out the door, you put your hands in your pockets and feel something crinkle. You pull it out, and it’s a $5 bill. Finding forgotten money is an instant boost.
But imagine if you could find $100, $500 or even $1,000. It’s possible you may have money owed to you that has gone unclaimed.
What are unclaimed dollars?
Every state in the US falls under unclaimed property programs that specifically set aside and protect forgotten money or assets until the rightful owner can be found. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUCPA), $41.7 billion is currently just sitting there waiting to be claimed.
There’s a very good chance there is some money due to you or a loved one. Unclaimed money can come from several different sources:
Life insurance policies
If a family member had a life insurance policy that no one knew about, either through an insurance company or through his or her employer, that money will often go untouched until a loved one steps forward to claim it.
Abandoned bank account
If you opened up a bank account as a child or at the local credit union when in college, you may have deposited a small amount. As you grew up and moved on, you may have completely forgotten about it. But the bank keeps that money in your name; you could find hundreds of dollars you had no idea you had.
Utility security deposits
Some utility companies require you to put down a security deposit to get your electric or water turned on. When you moved, you probably did not realize you’re entitled to that deposit back. The utility company will report the security deposit as unclaimed money under your name.
Those are just some of the most common reasons behind unclaimed funds, but there are many others. From missed payroll checks to insurance premium overages, people are due hundreds or even thousands of dollars without even realizing it.
While the unclaimed money owed to you may be as low as $20, it could be a substantial amount of money. The average unclaimed benefit is $2,000, but some people have found as much as $300,000 in life insurance benefits.
How do I find and claim missing money?
To find out if you have any money due to you, follow these steps:
Missing Money is completely free. Just enter your first name, last name and zip code; be sure to check under any names you have used in the past and any states you may have lived in previously, too. You can also search for family members and the deceased to see if any unclaimed money is due to them.
Check out Unclaimed.org
Not all states participate in MissingMoney.com, so it’s helpful to run a check on Unclaimed.org, a site run by the NAUPA that is also free.
Avoid search companies
There are hundreds of companies that say they can find unclaimed money for you. While that can be tempting, there’s no need to hire a third-party company and pay someone else to do what you can do at no cost. By hiring a company, you could end up paying them $1,000, only to find your windfall is just $25.
File a claim
If you find money under your name, you can go ahead and file a claim. When you begin the process, you will need to provide your social security number and birthdate to verify the legitimacy of your claim. Once you’ve entered the information, you will be taken to an official unclaimed property form you’ll need to sign and send to the listed address , typically your state’s treasury department. The process to receive your money can take several weeks or even months, so do not expect a rapid turnaround.
What if a deceased family member has unclaimed money?
If you have a friend or relative who is deceased and has unclaimed dollars under their name, only the legal heir is able to file a claim. In that case, the heir will also have to provide some documentation, such as the death certificate and legal will.
Nothing beats finding money you didn’t know you had. By checking MissingMoney.com and Unclaimed.org periodically, you can ensure you get every dollar you’re entitled too. Remember, the companies who owe you money will almost never reach out to you, so it’s your responsibility to check in and apply for any unclaimed property.