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A Guide on How to Find Unclaimed Money

By Erica Gellerman
November 19, 2019

Imagine this: one moment you’re stressing about paying your bills; the next minute things aren’t looking quite so bad.

So, what happened? You visited a few websites, and found out you have forgotten money just waiting to be claimed. With just a few clicks that money can be on your way to your bank account. Score! 

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. There are billions of dollars across the United States, forgotten by owners or not passed on to rightful heirs. This money is out there waiting to be claimed, and in some cases, will be returned to the U.S. Government if it’s not claimed within a certain period of time. 

Want to know how to find unclaimed money? Here are some of the best sources to help you track down money owed to you. 

State Unclaimed Property Office

Your first stop when searching for unclaimed money should be with your State Unclaimed Property Office. Laws require companies to turn over unclaimed property to the state so that you can reunite with your lost funds. 

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), some examples of unclaimed property are savings and checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, and contents of safe deposit boxes. California has over $9.3 billion of unclaimed money waiting to go back to its rightful owners. 

You can find a listing of all state offices through NAUPA. And, if you’ve lived and worked in multiple states, you’ll want to do a multi-state search. You can either search each state individually or you can use to conduct a multi-state search. 

Unclaimed wages

If you have unclaimed wages that are waiting to be returned to you, the U.S. Department of Labor will recover these owed wages and hold them for you for up to three years. You can search the Wage and Hour Division website to see if you have any money waiting to be claimed. 

Pension and retirement funds

Did you work for a company that went out of business or ended their defined benefit plan? You may not have lost all the money owed to you. 

There are more than 80,000 people in the U.S. who haven’t claimed their benefits, which total more than $400 million

Start your search for unclaimed pensions with the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. Even if you only worked for a company for a short period of time, the Pension Benefit Guarantee may be able to help you recoup money.

Do you think you may be missing money that you set aside for retirement in a 401(k) or similar plan? Changing jobs can be chaotic and sometimes in the hectic move, retirement plan details can be forgotten. If you’ve lost track of some of your retirement funds from a previous employer, you’ll want to check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. This provides a database of retirement plans that have been left unclaimed by former participants. 

Federal Tax Refunds

Each year the IRS has millions of refunds owed to people who don’t file their tax returns. At the beginning of 2019, the IRS had $1.4 billion in refunds waiting to be claimed by individuals who didn’t file a 2015 tax return. 

If the IRS can’t get the refund money to the rightful people within three years, the money is forfeited and becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.  

If you had money withheld from a paycheck but you earned too little to file a return, you might want to reconsider and file a late return. You can file up to three years after the due date, and if you’re owed a refund, there’s no penalty for filing late. 

You may also be owed money from the IRS if you didn’t earn enough to file taxes, yet were still eligible for the refundable Earned Income Credit. If you haven’t filed a return in the past three years, it’s worth spending some time doing your taxes to see if you’re owed a refund. 

In addition, if you were expecting a refund that never arrived, it may be part of the millions of dollars in tax refunds that are returned to the IRS each year for incorrect addresses or bank account information. You can check the status of your refund using the “Where’s My Refund” feature. 

Failed financial institutions

Did you have money in a bank that closed? The FDIC should have your money. 

You can search for any unclaimed funds using the unclaimed funds search tool

Similarly, if you had money in a credit union that was liquidated, you can review a listing of unclaimed deposits held with the National Credit Union Administration. 

Yet, you better check fast, You have 18 months to claim money and receive the full insured amount. If the 18 months have elapsed, you may still qualify for a distribution but your money is no longer insured, 

FHA insurance HUD insurance

Do you have an FHA mortgage through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)? If you do — and you paid an upfront insurance premium at closing — you may be entitled to a refund. You can search for your unclaimed refund using the HUD refund database

Life insurance proceeds

Imagine spending decades paying your life insurance premium, only to have your beneficiaries never know about the benefits? 

Here’s the truth: your life insurance company is not going to work to find your heirs. These benefits will go unclaimed unless your heirs find a way to track them down. In fact, unclaimed life insurance premiums happen often. In a Texas audit, there were nearly $60 million of unpaid insurance benefits in 2015. 

If you want to see if you have any life insurance benefits owed to you, you can check with the Life Insurance Policy Locator Service from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. You should also look on your state’s unclaimed property website for any benefits that may have been turned over to the state. 

Have you checked for unclaimed funds?

As you can see, there are many ways to find out if there’s money owed to you. With a few online searches, you could be reunited with money you didn’t even know you were missing. Are you ready to look for unclaimed money?

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