Every year, millions of dollars that should be in the pockets of Americans instead end up being held by the government until the rightful owners come forward.
It’s called “unclaimed property” and it could range from a few bucks to thousands of dollars.
So what is unclaimed property?
If a business, government office, or other source owes you money that you don’t collect, it’s considered unclaimed, according to the U.S. government.
Former employers can also be responsible.
Have you ever worked a job for a few days, left abruptly, and then not collected your paycheck? If the answer is “yes,” the government is probably holding onto it for you.
Unpaid wages are just one example of what the government considers unclaimed property.
If you’ve ever belonged to a failed financial institution or overpaid a utility bill, you could have money waiting for you.
It can also come in the form of old bank accounts, stocks, trust funds, uncashed cashier’s checks or money orders, or even unclaimed tax returns.
How to find out if you have unclaimed money
In California, the state is required to do its best to contact you and let you know about your missing money, but sometimes those efforts go nowhere.
“Contact is often lost when the owner forgets the account exists or moves and does not leave a forwarding address. In some cases, the owner dies with heirs who have no knowledge of the property,” according to the California State Controller’s Office.
If the state is unsuccessful, then it becomes your job to find out if you have property waiting to be claimed.
Californians can search on the Controller’s Office website to look up any unclaimed property. There are also detailed instructions for how to make a claim and what you need to do to prove your identity.
But what if you’ve previously lived and worked outside of California? Luckily, the majority of other states across the country can all be searched through MissingMoney.com. The website is endorsed by the federal government.
If you find that you have unclaimed property, you’ll need to file a claim and wait to have your request processed.
For a complete breakdown of the different types of unclaimed property and how to find them, click here.
Newly-claimed funds are typically issued in the form of a check and it’s usually free to file a claim, although methods to verify your identity vary from state to state.