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TheStreet Open House

The Lost and Found of Missing Money

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- We often hear of an unexpected windfall or bonus as being "found money." Unfortunately, Americans waste billions in "lost" assets.

Through personal oversight, negligence and even misdirection, people lose money that is rightfully theirs -- by the billions.

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, an association of the state unclaimed property programs, nearly $33 billion of unclaimed property is in state treasuries.

There are forgotten bank accounts, uncashed dividends, ignored stocks, unredeemed savings bonds, missing lottery tickets, never-claimed rental and utility deposits, overpayments and abandoned safe deposit boxes.

States typically step in as caretakers -- and eventually takers -- of these assets left in limbo. Naupa offers a free website, www.unclaimed.org, to help those who suspect they may have missing money in their name track it down state by state. State treasurers also run periodic lists of "unclaimed money." (Naupa also endorses a free but commercially run site MissingMoney.com.)

Mary Pittman, author of "The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money that is Rightfully Yours", offered TheStreet some perspective on lost money.

According to her current research, the largest single listings to an individual in NY was for $4 million for a stock claim and within the state of Iowa alone there are 2,000,000 shares of stock waiting to be claimed. There is one person in New York with $1.7 million waiting to be claimed; in California, another individual has $1.6 million waiting for them.

The following are some of the ways people "lose" money and who is at the ready to claim it when they don't:

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