Unclaimed Money: A Look Into How Some Of Your Funds May Be 'Missing' And A Guide On How To Get Your Money Back

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Unclaimed money: if you've never heard this phrase, you may not know that there's money out there — perhaps some of your money — that's held by the state until you become aware that it exists and are ready to take it back. Even when you may have thought that all your finances were in order, this phenomenon remains possible. It's actually quite common for individuals to lose track of their money: life events such as moving to another state or mistakes such as overpaying a bill can affect how much of your money is deemed “unclaimed.”

What is unclaimed money and where does it come from?

Unclaimed money, also called unclaimed property, is money that is kept by the state after the rightful owner fails to collect it within a year. There are many life events and circumstances that can cause your money to go “unclaimed.”

  • Overpaying a bill, then moving: If a company cannot locate you or doesn't know your new address, the extra money goes to the state.
  • Switching bank accounts during a move: Similarly, if a bank can't get your last check to you, the funds are safeguarded by the state.
  • Bank failures: You may want to check if some of your funds went unclaimed in the transition time.
  • Unpaid wages or unclaimed pensions: You may be owed money by a previous employer. Life insurance funds may also have gone unclaimed.
  • Tax refunds: If your refund was unclaimed or undelivered, it may become unclaimed money.
  • Inheritance: If an inheritance was never claimed, it may fall into the hands of the state.

These are only a few of the ways some of your money can end up untouched for months, even years. In fact, as much as $40 billion dollars of unclaimed money may be sitting with certain state governments.

How can I know if I am owed unclaimed money and how do I retrieve it?

Unfortunately, there is no centralized government system to search for unclaimed money nationwide. However, you may be able to search for it through the website of the state (or states) you lived in.

It may be tempting to think that you have hundreds, if not thousands of dollars ready to be claimed. While this may the the base for some people, the average amount of money a person would have unclaimed is between $50 to $100.

Once you start looking for unclaimed money, you may have to be careful to not fall victim to possible scams. While some legitimate websites, such as state websites, may ask you to provide your social security number, it may be a good idea to be wary of the unofficial sites that do so. You may also have to provide your name in order to confirm your identity. Additionally, don't fall for scams from strangers who may pretend to be government officials who are calling you about unclaimed money or property. Government agencies do not contact citizens regarding such matters.

When you have established that you have unclaimed money, you can file a claim with the state government to retrieve it. It is your right to be able to retrieve that money, as it never belonged to the state, and government agencies and establishments cannot claim ownership of those funds.

Tips on searching for unclaimed money

While searching for unclaimed money may seem to be very straightforward, don't just stop at looking up your name. You made need to look up your maiden name as well, if you have one.

In the case of inheritance, though funds may have been redirected to you, you may have to search the name of the deceased in order to claim that money.

Additionally, if you are are searching through state websites, you may need to search the databases of every state you've lived in.

What will you find out?