Millions of dollars are waiting to be claimed in the Alaska State treasury. Sounds too good to be true, right? But this is no fairy tale; it really does exist. This is money that comes from banks, insurance companies, stocks, bonds, jewelry and other properties that are unclaimed or whose owners can’t be located.
In most cases, it boils down to forgetting something — a bank account that you forgot about, a utility deposit not picked up or an insurance check you didn’t cash.
Each state has an office that collects unclaimed property. In Alaska, it is the Department of Revenue. The money in this account can be as simple as a refund check that you forgot to cash all the way up to an inheritance from a long-lost relative. If whoever has the property can’t find you, the money goes into this repository until someone shows up to claim it.
The challenge is that you cannot claim something you don’t know about. A simple search can tell you if you have money that has found its way to the unclaimed property office. There are two websites that are useful in researching unclaimed property: missingmoney.com and www.unclaimed.org. On these websites, you can type in your name to search their database along with a state of residence. If you find you are listed, there are instructions on how to claim your money.
A few years back, I found a small savings account that we had forgotten. It was less than $100 but had been turned over to the state when there was no activity over a long period of time. I found that my sister was due a utility deposit on a rental house she had owned at one time. So be sure to check for yourself as well as all your friends and relatives.
I did a quick search tonight on some family names and found most of the unclaimed property that popped up was less than $100. So you aren’t going to get rich this way, but you might find something you misplaced.
I’m amazed that people could lose a tax return, but if you moved and didn’t leave a forwarding address, a tax refund might be waiting for you. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service has more than $760 million in unclaimed tax refunds for the year 2010. Most of this amount is from people who didn’t file a tax return. But it can be claimed as much as three years later. So if you didn’t file a return for 2010, file it now. If you didn’t receive a refund that was owed to you, contact the IRS.
Wherever there is money, there is often a scam springing up. I recently heard from someone who had been contacted by a company that specializes in finding lost money. The company had sent a letter asking for a fee in exchange for information on the unclaimed property. The company actually had no idea if she had unclaimed property or not. What her fee purchased was a list of agencies that handle unclaimed properties and the list of the two websites listed above.
Another related scam is when the company notifies you about unclaimed property and asks for a percentage of the funds in return for helping you claim them. In both cases, the information that these finders provide to you is free to you. It isn’t necessary to pay anyone for the information.
It’s easy to see if you have unclaimed property, but beware of scams related to the money. Search only legitimate, free, multistate websites. Missingmoney.com and .org have links to all states’ unclaimed property divisions. It is easy to search for property in the state you currently reside in as well as former residences.
I hope you find a million!
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is a professor of extension on the Tanana District Extension Faculty. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at email@example.com or by calling 907-474-2426. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.