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Hello
  Does anyone know if a stock certificate number can be looked up, to determine if the shares have been cancelled?  I have a long list of certificate numbers for shares purchased by relatives.  I have not come across the actual certificates yet.  Would I need to contact each company or their transfer agent to look up the numbers or is there a way that I can look them up myself?  Any direction would be appreciated.  Thank you.  Eve

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You will need to contact the transfer agent for this.  You can usually find the transfer agent listed on a company's investor relations web site.

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https://www-us.computershare.com/Investor/

https://www-us.computershare.com/Investor/Contact/Index

Compushare phone numbers vary by the company stock to be discussed.
A good number of these records can be searched by individual name AND Social Security number. IF the company you are concerned about has an annual meeting and/or pays a dividend, usually something with your answer is sent to the name and address of record Unless your relative agreed to paperless.
IF the shares have been surrendered or converted to book shares, then all should be well. IF the shares are still certificates and you need to do something with the stoch and without the actual certificates to surender (transfer or sell), then insurance needs to be purchased in addition.
Have patience with Compushare. The quality of their CSRs vary. The quality of their processing varies. They can be very picky or fail to tell the computer a detail was submitted. We had to submit the identical paperwork more than once on each of a half dozen stocks when dealing with my parents estate.

A lesser number of shares are handled by
https://www.shareowneronline.com/UserManagement/WFIndex.aspx

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FYI, the value of any stock presumed abandoned would be escheated to the state government. Search at https://www.unclaimed.org/ and your state treasurer's unclaimed property office.

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While doveroftk is correct most often, Compushare's record of compliance is dismal at best. Some were sent to my state's unclaimed property office, but over $75,000 (6 different stocks) was not sent despite Compushare selling the registration information to two third parties who would send mailings instructing reply with permission to sell the securities for a large commission to the offending company over and above the excessive fees to sell by Compushare.

Wells Fargo Shareowneer Services IMO committed the same offenses.

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JW10 said:   While doveroftk is correct most often, Compushare's record of compliance is dismal at best. Some were sent to my state's unclaimed property office, but over $75,000 (6 different stocks) was not sent despite Compushare selling the registration information to two third parties who would send mailings instructing reply with permission to sell the securities for a large commission to the offending company over and above the excessive fees to sell by Compushare.

Wells Fargo Shareowneer Services IMO committed the same offenses.

"Abandonment" of stock certificates is difficult to ascertain, especially if no dividends are being paid.  There is little or no need for a company to have communication with a shareholder, so I'm not even sure how shares would be deemed abandoned in such cases.  I suppose if dividend checks are returned, that would be one measure, but even that doesn't necessarily constitute abandonment.  Relying on the escheatment process for recovery of assets that you think should have been deemed abandoned isn't a very good strategy.  

As for your comment about third party solicitations, you must be talking about Georgeson.  Computershare OWNS Georgeson.  It is their unclaimed property division and seeks to locate owners prior to the escheatment process.  Not sure what your gripe is, but I've had good experiences with Computershare over the years.  If you get a letter from Georgeson, it is because they are trying to find you so that you can claim your ownership.  There's nothing requiring you to sell your shares.

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Your comments about abandonment are valid, but most states escheat laws define failure to communicate with Compushare can and should trigger escheat transfer to the state. The number of years of no communication vary by state if I recall correctly.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/110515/who-decides-if-financial-security-should-be-escheated.asp 

I have received third party efforts from two companies each with information only available from Compushare, but never heard of Georgeson until your post.

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JW10 said:   Your comments about abandonment are valid, but most states escheat laws define failure to communicate with Compushare can and should trigger escheat transfer to the state. The number of years of no communication vary by state if I recall correctly.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/110515/who-decides-if-financial-security-should-be-escheated.asp 

I have received third party efforts from two companies each with information only available from Compushare, but never heard of Georgeson until your post.

That's an interesting topic.  I never thought that old shares in certificate form might be declared abandoned simply because the shareholder didn't communicate with the company or transfer agent.  Here's  an article that cites certain states that actually register "abandoned" shares in the name of the state!  It seems that returned mail or uncashed dividend checks are triggering abandonment; I read an article that suggests sending in a proxy vote as a good way to confirm that your ownership is "active."  Of course, the best measure would be to turn in those stock certificates and have those shares held in book entry form, either directly through the transfer agent or through a broker.

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My post about escheatment follows from my own experience. I had been gifted some shares of stock as a child, my dad failed to cash some dividend checks, and many (many) years later, I found the proceeds from the value of the stock and dividends in the state unclaimed property database. Certainly not something to count on, but worth looking into for someone in OP's situation.

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