Found Money: Is Money Looking for You?

On a near daily basis, my mother (a lovely woman) forwards me ‘important’ email she’s received that frequently turn out to be urban legends, bogus stories or digital-age chain letters. So when she emailed me last week to tell me that she had found $44 that belonged to me via I was a bit skeptical.

But it turns out that this legitimate! Bell Atlantic had tried to send me a refund check when I moved out of an apartment fourteen years ago, but I hadn’t provided them with a forwarding address. The money was now sitting with the Pennsylvania Treasurer’s Office, where I was able to file a claim for it online.

State laws require companies to turn unclaimed property over to the state treasurer, which attempts to reunite it with the proper owner. State treasurers currently hold $33 billion in unclaimed property, which includes refund and dividend checks, insurance and lawsuit payouts, securities, and safe deposit box contents. Most of the amounts are under $100 and can usually be claimed by filing a simple form, though you may need to document that are you genuine owner of the property, which could require unearthing decades-old proof of residency or ownership.

Missing Money and are both completely free services that enable you to search databases in many states. A simple search for “unclaimed property [state name]” will turn up the database for each state too, which I sometimes found a bit easier to use. Be sure to search with each state that you’ve ever lived in, and if you have a maiden name, check on that as well.

Excited by my $44 discovery, I checked with the other states where I’ve lived as well and discovered a $75 lawsuit award waiting for me in California, plus $14 from my husband’s long forgotten PayPal account. Search results also revealed money waiting for four of my cousins, an uncle and my father-in-law too!

It was fun discovering this money during my brief Internet treasure hunt, but of course I would have preferred not to have “lost” it in the first place.

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