What is Unclaimed Money and How Does it Work?

Kelly B. —

What is Unclaimed Money and How Does it Work? There’s a chance you might have money lying around you didn’t even know about, though it may seem too good to be true. Billions of dollars in unclaimed money sitting with the state governments and treasuries in the United States, and some may have your name on it. So, what is unclaimed money, and how do you recover it? Read on to discover how you can claim money you forgot about or didn’t even know you owned.

What is Unclaimed Money?

Unclaimed money refers to money whose owner or a person of authority cannot be located on behalf of the owner; this may be due to a change of name or address. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), about 1 in 10 Americans have unclaimed money or property.

These funds are considered abandoned when there’s no activity on the account after a specific time, known as the dormancy period. In most states, this period is five years. Once this time elapses, the organizations are mandated to transfer the funds to the government. Then, the government protects the money till the owner is found and tries to find them via newspaper ads websites. The states also ensure that the owner or their heir can always claim the property at any time.

Unclaimed Money

What Makes up Unclaimed Money?

So, how does money become unclaimed? Unclaimed money comes from numerous sources. For example, consider a person due for a tax refund who changes his address unknown to the tax authority. After processing, the refund is mailed to the old address. However, it remains unclaimed because payments from tax authorities cannot be forwarded to prevent fraud.

Most common forms of unclaimed money include:

• Uncashed checks, contents of safe deposit boxes, money orders
• Unclaimed refunds
• Insurance payouts
• Stocks, mutual funds, bonds
• Abandoned bank account balances.

What is Unclaimed Money

How to Find Unclaimed Money

Though the federal government does not possess an official website for tracking unclaimed money, you can find it on your own through official databases. When businesses can’t locate the owner of a fund, they send it to state-run unclaimed property offices. You can start your search using the NAUPA website. The website has an interactive map that takes you directly to each state’s official unclaimed property website to search with your name.

It is also possible to have lost money in different states. The NAUPA endorsed multi-state database will help facilitate the search. Use your name or business name to search the platform. Also, ensure to check all states you have lived or conducted business.
Some other databases to find unclaimed money include:

• The IRS website for tax refunds.
• The Department of Labor (DOL) database to search for unclaimed wages from employers broke labor laws.
• Search for unclaimed pensions on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation database.
• U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a database for unclaimed insurance funds.
• Check the U.S. Treasury Hunt for matured savings bonds or treasury notes that stopped yielding interest.
• The National Credit Union Administration for unclaimed deposits with credit unions.

How to Find Unclaimed Money

How to Recover Unclaimed Money

Now that you have found your unclaimed money, what next? The process may vary by state, but you would be required to verify your identity. Also, you may need to show the following documents:

• Your driver’s license or any other state-issued ID.
• Copy of your Social Security Card or IRS Form W-2.
• Proof of current and previous address.
Processing times for each state varies, and it may take between a few weeks to a few months.

Bottom Line

Billions of dollars remain unclaimed, and some of that money may be yours. Spend some time searching on the various databases, and you may be in luck.

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