By Angela Colley
NEW YORK (MoneyTalksNews)—How do you spend commercial breaks? Checking your email? Playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook? Why not spend it doing something productive like hunting for treasure?
You can by searching online for unclaimed money that's owed to you. While it may seem unlikely, 2.5 million claims involving $2.25 billion were processed in 2011, returning the money to its rightful owners, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. That's a lot of people receiving checks they hadn't realized they were owed.
In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson tells you how to start your treasure hunt on your own for free. You don't have to pay for this service. Check it out and then read on for more details.
There are dozens of websites promising to help you search for and claim missing money in exchange for a fee. Other businesses may contact you directly by mail or telephone saying you are owed money and offering to collect it for a fee. They're accessing the same information you can obtain yourself for free online.
So don't pay for a search. And don't give out your personal information. Play it safe and stick with the websites we identify below.
What goes missing
A missing property search can find money from a variety of sources, including:
- Matured and uncollected bonds.
- Uncollected pension checks.
- Rebate checks from retailers or manufacturers.
- Leftover money from failed banks or closed accounts.
- Earnings from stocks.
- Insurance checks.
Whenever a company or some other entity that owed you money couldn't get in contact with you, the money was turned over to the state. If you're thinking no one owes you anything, you might be surprised. I did a search for my name and found four unpaid rebates and two accounts I had overpaid and was due money back on.
Where to find it
Start by visiting the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators' site, unclaimed.org. From there, chose your location and you'll be redirected to your state's online money search. Enter a few personal tidbits and you'll automatically see a list of what you're owed. The NAUPA also maintains a database at MissingMoney.com.
You can also find unclaimed property on other sites like:
- Unclaimed Money from the Government – Shows you where to find unclaimed pension money, tax refunds, mortgage insurance refunds and more.
- TreasuryDirect Treasure Hunt – Finds matured bonds issued after 1974.
- FDIC Unclaimed Funds – Search for money owed by failed banks.
- SEC Old Stock and Bond Certificates – Not an online search, but does provide information on replacing a missing stock certificate.
What you'll need
To find out if there's unclaimed money in your name, you'll need to provide some basic personal information such as your full name and ZIP code and perhaps a previous address.
Getting the money will require submitting a form, which you can download and print. Once you mail the form, you should receive a check. However, your state agency may require documentation proving you are who you say you are, especially if you're seeking a large amount. Identification documents could include a state-issued ID, birth certificate, or proof of address (such as a lease, utility bill or letter from a landlord).
Have you had the marvelous surprise of learning that missing money is owed to you? Share your experience on our Facebook page.
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