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Billions of Dollars in Missing Money Waiting to be Found

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) While the Mega Millions jackpot climbs to $550 million, there is some $400 million waiting to be claimed in South Carolina -- and you don't even have to buy a ticket. About that much in Utah, too. There's nearly $600 million in Louisiana and a staggering $3 billion in Texas. These are not lottery jackpots, but unclaimed money as the result of bank failures, dormant checking and savings accounts, forgotten insurance payments and many other types of abandoned assets.

Massachusetts State Treasurer Steven Grossman recently revealed 51,000 new names of residents who are owed $75 million. Some of that money is $1000 "Welcome Home" bonuses for military members who have returned to Massachusetts after serving in Afghanistan.

"When people check online, chances are that they or someone they know has a claim to the over $2.4 billion we are holding on behalf of citizens," Grossman said in a statement earlier this year. "And it's our goal to return as much of it as possible it's their money." The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is a non-profit organization that works with state treasurers to promote the return of unclaimed property to rightful owners.

While each state maintains its own database of abandoned assets, NAUPA says most states participate in MissingMoney.com, which compiles the data to allow multi-state searches from a single source. There is no charge for the service. Searches by individual states can be performed at Unclaimed.org.

Other sources of missing money include undeliverable IRS tax refunds, pension benefits, forgotten savings bonds, Veterans Administration benefits, unclaimed railroad retirement benefits, and Holocaust victim claims and lost assets. The NAUPA has a page of links to all of those resources as well.

It appears that unclaimed money comes in many forms:

  • Over $500,000 in loose change was collected by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from airport security stations last year. In the past, that money has been put into the TSA operational budget, but legislation has been proposed to direct future cash to help fund airport lounges for members of the military and their families.
  • A Powerball ticket worth $16 million was unclaimed and expired after a six-month deadline passed in late November, according to Florida lottery officials.
  • Oklahoma has scheduled an auction next week to sell off property from 700 abandoned safe deposit boxes. Items to be sold include coin collections, precious metals and collectable cards.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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