Finding $20 in an old coat pocket is a sign of a great day. But imagine finding $250. That would be pretty awesome, right? It might be more plausible than you think.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a distant relative who told me he had found my name on the Pennsylvania Treasury’s website and that they owed me money. This sounded like a scam to me, but I checked out the website. Sure enough, there was my name, with a notation that more than $100 was waiting for me.
I was still skeptical, but I filled out the claim form and sent it in. Two weeks later, a check arrived for $250, and it was completely legit. Turns out, I had paid my car insurance company before moving out of state and canceling my policy. Because I insured my car in my new state with a different insurer, that meant my old company owed me the premiums I had paid but didn’t use. However, they didn’t have my new address to forward it to me.
That $250 was a nice surprise, and my experience isn’t unique. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), there’s $41.7 billion in forgotten cash that has gone unclaimed. That means there could potentially be money for you that you didn’t even know you had.
Sources of unclaimed dollars
Unclaimed money can come from many different sources:
- Insurance premiums: If you paid your car or homeowner’s insurance premium and then moved, your insurance company may still owe you that money.
- Old bank accounts: Many people open up savings accounts as children or while in college, and then forget about them. But that money is still yours, and it might have grown thanks to interest.
- Life insurance policies: If a loved one passed away, there might be an insurance policy. Many have plans through their employer or another source, and don’t tell family members. If you do not claim it, the bank or organization holding the policy will maintain it until you step forward.
- Security deposits: Some utility companies require a security deposit to set up your electric or water account. If you later move out of the area, the company may owe you that deposit back.
- Tax refund: If the state or federal government owes you a tax refund but doesn’t have your updated address on file, it can sit in an unclaimed account for months, or even years. There is no expiration date, so you can claim your funds no matter how much time has passed.
How to find unclaimed money
Having hundreds drop in your lap may seem too good to be true, but it is possible. And the process to find and claim those dollars isn’t complex or difficult. It’s a quick and easy DIY project that can pay off in a big way.
Be cautious when you proceed – there are companies that search for unclaimed money for you in return for a fee. Avoid these companies, since you can do the same thing on your own for free.
Here’s how to find unclaimed dollars without paying for a service:
- MissingMoney.com: To use the site, enter your name and state. It will comb through its database to find your information. When searching, make sure you try every name you have ever used. For example, if you’re married and changed your name, try using your maiden name. Also, use every address you’ve had in the past.
- Unclaimed.org: Some states do not use MissingMoney, so if nothing is coming up for you, try Unclaimed.org. Run by the NAUPA, it will include results from all eligible states.
If you find an entry under your name, click on the link for more information. In most cases, you will need to print off and complete a claim form that you mail in. However, some states require more documentation, such as getting the claim notarized. Make sure you read the instructions and understand everything needed to retrieve your money.
Once you submit the claim, your state’s treasury department will review it. If everything is in order, they will mail you a check for the amount owed.
When you’re short on cash or are saving for future goals, finding money you didn’t know you had can be a great feeling. By checking these sites for unclaimed money, you can get every dollar you are owed. That found money can be a much-needed boost, so file those claims and prepare to celebrate.
Originally published on July 27, 2017.