Thursday, February 12, 2009

How To Search For Unclaimed Money?

While I am struggling to cope with this recession and trying to build as much of an emergency fund, I am amazed that there are people who leave money unclaimed. Are they too rich or just forgetful?

How To Search For Unclaimed Money?There are people like Brent Minnick who made a business out of locating unclaimed money. This guy combs databases and once he identifies recoverable funds, he tracks down the owners with a proposition of 25% commission for doing the dirty work of claiming the money. A win-win solution but it can get pretty steep for a $1 million dollar windfall.

If you are hungering for a windfall and do not want to go through a middleman, here are some sources to start with:

Saving Bonds

About 41 million U.S. saving bonds (mostly Series E and H bonds dating as far back as 1941) have matured and no longer earn interest. So your grandfather long-term investment could have matured and is worth a fortune. A $25 bond sold in the 1940s could be worth 10 times its face value today.

Some people don't redeem old bonds because they lose them or forget they ever owned one. Others hold onto bonds as a keepsake. Unfortunately, by not redeeming a bond, you don't get the income or the return of principal.

To find out if you have a matured bond issued in 1974 or later, use the Treasury Hunt database. This also reveals if your missing bond is one of the 15,000 bonds that are returned annually to the Treasury as undeliverable.

For older bonds, you can start the redemption process by filling out a detailed claim for lost, stolen or destroyed U.S. Saving Bonds (Form 1048). It's available online at TreasuryDirect or at local financial institutions.

If your memory of a bond is vague, the Bureau of Public Debt will try to trace it for you. Write to the bureau at Box 7012, Parkersburg, W.Va., 26106-7012. Filling in as much information, like the denomination, date of issue, name and address of the owner will strengthen your case.

Federal Funds

The Treasury Department also keeps a list of unclaimed money held by federal agencies. The largest pot of money, as at end September, belonged to the judiciary, with $168 million in unclaimed cash. Much of that is restitution paid by offenders to victims who can't be located.

It also includes dividend income belonging to bankruptcy creditors that can't be located. Usually, the court holds the money for five years and then turns it over to the judiciary's unclaimed fund. If you are owed money, you can make a claim. You must go back to the original court and obtain a court order.

Tax Refunds

You have three years to claim your tax refund before the money goes back into the Treasury's coffers. So if you never received your 2005 refund because you didn't file a tax return for that year, you have until April 15 this year to do so.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't have figures yet on the amount of unclaimed refunds for 2005. But if past years are any indication, about 1 million taxpayers have left $1 billion to $2 billion on the table.

Obtain back tax forms and publications at IRS or call them at 800-829-3676.

There are other sources of unclaimed money like bank accounts, escrow accounts, utility or apartment deposits, final paychecks of short-term jobs, property settlements in divorces, safe deposit box contents, insurance policies and checks that have never been cashed.

So far, I have been searching for unclaimed money, to no avail. I guess my windfall comes from rifling through closets and old purses to find a few pennies. Maybe, you will have better luck than me.


frugalCPA said...

My wife has some old bonds, but they're still accruing interest so we're keeping them for now.

There are few things better (financially speaking) than finding a $20 bill in a jacket pocket - if it's your own jacket, that is. :)

I found several hundred dollars in a book from my grandparents' books shelf when I was younger. Unfortunately, though it was just about the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me, I didn't get to keep any of it! I should have proposed the 25% commission you mentioned. said...

That seems like a pretty good business. Few people would turn down the opportunity to get free money; especially if somebody else is going to go through the work to get it for them.

Barry Ritz said...

@ frugalCPA -

Good for you, just keep the old bonds going, they will be worth a pretty penny later on.

You are lucky to have found several hundred dollars in your grandparents' book shelf.

As for the 25% commission, I wouldn't encourage it though, I know my grandpa will throw me out of the house for proposing that.

Barry Ritz said...

@ PennySeeds -

Yup, that is why I say it is a win-win solution. It is painstaking work to comb through all the databases, much like looking for a needle in the haystick.

However, if you are talking about a million dollar windfall, the 25% commission can be pretty steep, as compared to the same kind of work on a $5k windfall.

The weakonimist said...

Back in middle school, I found a link through that helped with unclaimed money. I helped my grandfather find $1200 in some old dividends from a dead bank. He gave it to his grandkids :)