- The state holds onto unclaimed property, such as insurance overpayments or unreturned security deposits, until it's claimed by its owner.
- It took me just five minutes to find my money and fill out my forms, and the checks were in the mail about two months later.
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Nobody turns down the chance to get free money, right? No matter the source, there's just something special about the feeling you get when you come across money you weren't expecting.
For me, I got that great feeling when I found $140.43 of my own "missing" money sitting in my state's unclaimed property fund . It took about five minutes to fill out a few forms, mail them in, and then about two months of waiting, but eventually the checks were in the mail.
What are unclaimed funds?
Unclaimed property is property, money, or accounts held typically by financial institutions where there has not been any activity for a specified time. Generally this would be no activity for one year or longer. If the company can't find the property owner to return or refund the money, then it gets turned over to the government.
One example of this might be someone who leaves their apartment without providing a forwarding address to their landlord. The landlord has a security deposit to return, but has no way of locating his former tenant. The landlord can't legally keep the money, so after a certain period of time has gone by, she must turn over the security deposit money to the government.
States return over $3,000,000,000 in funds each year to their rightful owners.
MissingMoney.com is a website that collates the unclaimed funds from 40 US states, the District of Columbia, and one Canadian province (Alberta). While it is not an official government site in that it's not run by the government, it is endorsed by these jurisdictions, which share the unclaimed funds data.
It is unfortunate that MissingMoney.com's affiliation with these government entities is not more obvious on its website. I had a few friends wonder if it was a scam website. It is not, but if you feel nervous about entering your information there, you can always do an Internet search for your state's unclaimed funds division and work with them directly.
Filling out the unclaimed funds forms
It is free to search for money, either through MissingMoney.com or through the official state or province unclaimed funds division sites.
MissingMoney.com does limit results to 200 at a time, so you may need to refine your search. Make sure to try different combinations of your name including your middle initial or not, checking nicknames and other spellings of your name. Also, search for any states that you've ever lived in.
My first and last names are both quite common, so I needed to put in my middle initial and city, but I found two different sources of missing money. Different states have different rules about what they are legally allowed to display in Ohio, it would only display either Over $100 or Under $100. In my case, I found one of each.
Through MissingMoney.com, I was able to enter my information and fill out a claim form for both of these sources of money. It turned out that one was from Capital One Investing for $120.16, and the other source of my missing money was Incomm Financial, for $18.93.
I printed off both of the claim forms and sent them to the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds in separate envelopes. Ohio's law states that you must also send a copy of your ID and requires a notary only for funds over $1,000. Other jurisdictions have slightly different procedures.
Telling my friends and family
After I found this missing money for myself, I started putting in the names of everyone I knew. It felt a little stalker-y, but I figured nobody would turn down the chance to get some free money. Of all the family and friends whose names I entered in, I'd estimate about 30-40% of them returned back with missing money. I sent off a few quick emails to let them know hopefully they, too, can get a little extra windfall.
Getting my money
After finding my name on the unclaimed funds site in the beginning of April, I filled out the forms and submitted them to the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds later that week. I then promptly forgot about it. A few months later, one of my coworkers mentioned that they had gotten their money after I had mentioned it.
I searched and found that Ohio's Division of Unclaimed Funds has a status checker (I assume most other states and provinces are similar). I put in my claim numbers and saw that they had been processed. Sure enough, my two checks arrived in the mail within the week. Start to finish, it took about two months from the time I spent five minutes filling out a form and mailing it until I got my money.
Sure, $140.43 isn't a ton of money, but it sure is better than nothing. Make sure to check your own name at MissingMoney.com to see if they are holding any of your money.
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