How to Search for Unclaimed Funds and Avoid Scammers

By: Sopia L., Assistancefinder
Published Mar 25, 2020 8:19:31 AM

Unclaimed assets are the modern version of buried treasure, and there’s an estimated $42 million dollars worth of it waiting on rightful owners to claim their share. Instead of being buried in the dirt, this treasure is buried in a sea of paperwork and information, hidden from rightful owners in plain sight.

These unclaimed assets can be funds from pensions, banks, credit unions, child support payments, Internal Revenue Service refunds, life insurance payments, SSI payments, real estate, bonds, and a number of other sources. Being unclaimed means that an asset is owed to a specific person and that person hasn’t claimed and collected the funds or property.

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If you feel that you have unclaimed money, you have quite a few resources to help you find and claim it. However, you should be aware that unscrupulous scammers have used the misfortune and hope of finding unclaimed money as a lure to scam the public.

Where Does Unclaimed Money Go?

Unclaimed money may be owed to you by the local, state or federal government. Keep these caveats in mind as you search out the sources of unclaimed funds:

• Which entity initially houses your unclaimed funds depends on who originally owed you the funds and how long they’re legally able to hold those funds as they go unclaimed.
• In some cases, the initial entity owing the funds retains the right to house the funds until the legal statute of limitation for claiming it is reached, at which time they may internally redistribute the funds and they are lost to you.
• In other cases, the initial entity that owes the unclaimed funds must turn the funds over to a higher agency for housing after a certain amount of time passes with it going unclaimed. This entity will then house the funds until the legal statute of limitation has passed for claiming the funds, at which time your legal right to claim is lost.
• Most state laws will require banks, brokerage firms and other private companies handling public money to turn over their unclaimed funds to the state they’re headquartered in for safekeeping when they can't locate the rightful owners.

How Can I Find Unclaimed Funds?

The federal government does not have a centralized portal for locating unclaimed funds it owes you. You must search state by state or through a comprehensive database.

The USA.GOV site will redirect you to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA.) This site works with official state treasury sites to help reunite unclaimed funds with rightful owners. It’s a comprehensive and free search system allowing you to search across all states. And the sources of unclaimed funds are also quite comprehensive, including anything from an abandoned safety deposit box or uncashed check to abandoned security deposits.

If you prefer, you can go to each state’s treasury office website on your own, where you’ll find a listing of state-owed and state-housed unclaimed monies and properties.

The state Wage and Hour Division website within the U.S. Dept. Of Labor will show you any unclaimed back-wages you might be owed.

Unclaimed federal tax refund searches should be directed to the IRS. Go to you state’s revenue department website if you have unclaimed state refund checks. Do keep in mind that you only have three years to claim tax refunds.

The Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation’s website can help you seek unclaimed pensions from former employees.

The Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt is the place to search for unclaimed saving bonds. They’re currently holding millions of matured bonds that haven’t been redeemed. It’s easy to see how these can get lost considering it typically three decades for them to mature.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation website can help you seek unclaimed funds from credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions.

If you’ve ever had an FHA-insured mortgage, check the HUD/FHA website to see if you’re owed unclaimed funds. This happens frequently from mix ups where you’re charged a lump sum at closing and then inadvertently charged monthly. Also happens frequently when you refinance to a conventional loan. You have six years to claim these funds.

Should I Pay A Search Firm To Find Unclaimed Money?

All the above are free self-search options. There are paid options, too. These are companies that search out unclaimed assets for you in return for a finders fee or flat fee.

They’re useful for searches that don’t involve mandatory reporting of unpaid, unclaimed funds. An example would be life insurance policies left unclaimed. Insurers are not required by law in most instances to search out beneficiaries nor put unpaid funds into a searchable unclaimed database. Finding such policies can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Points To Consider In Searching For Unclaimed Money

• Search all states you’ve lived.
• Search under all names you’ve used.
• Search under the headquartered state of entities as well as the state in which you did business with them.

How to Avoid Call Scams Related To Unclaimed Funds

Scammers frequently impersonate government agencies, even spoofing their caller ID number and creating fake seals and letterheads to appear official. They’ll use threats and scare tactics. They’ll dangle bait and try to seduce you into giving them info, access, or money. Prevent scams by following these simple rules:

1. Never Give A Caller Money To Get Money.

This includes wires, bank transfers, cash, check, and debit card. Collecting unclaimed funds will never require the transfer of any monies from to the entity that owes you the unclaimed funds.

2. Never Give Out Your Personal Or Financial Info To A Caller.

Scammers use this info to steal your identity, create accounts under your name, and access your existing accounts.

3. Never Allow Remote Access To Your Devices.

Once you allow a scammer access to your internet-connected devices, they can freely access your accounts, directly steal information, or install software to steal your information.

4. Never Trust The Caller’s Name And Number.

Spoofing allows scammers to seem legit. Government agencies, however, do not call you up to offer nor collect funds. Any correspondence will go through official websites and postal mail channels that can be verified.

5. Place Your Name On The Do Not Call Registry.

This won’t stop the scammers, but it will reduce the legitimate, unsolicited business calls so that you can know any unknown entity not honoring your do not call is likely a scammer.

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