Government agencies have tens of billions of dollars’ worth missing money from old forgotten bank accounts, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, dividend or payroll checks, refunds for goods or services, traveler’s checks, insurance payments, annuities, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates, utility security deposits, escrow accounts, and mineral royalty payments, contents of safe-deposit boxes and other forgotten holdings, hanging out there in your name without you even realizing it, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). For one in 10 people, there’s money just sitting out there waiting to be claimed!
Technology has made it easier for people to discover and recover forgotten wealth, but there are still hurdles. For one thing, there is no central database for all unclaimed assets in every state, which means people might have to look in multiple places if they’re trying to track down or discover assets.
It’s easier than ever to find forgotten property thanks to the increasing number of databases. In most cases, it makes sense to do the sleuthing yourself rather than pay a finder firm to do it for you. If you locate funds that are yours, the fiduciary that holds them will provide specific instructions on how to claim them. You’ll need proof of your identity. If the property belonged to a deceased relative or friend, you’d also have to prove that you are the executor of the estate or the rightful heir.
A good first stop is MissingMoney.com. Just fill in your name to do a database search of available unclaimed funds across states you ever lived in with all names you have ever used in the past. https://unclaimed.org/ The site has records from at least 35 states and the District of Columbia and links to agencies in the other states. Check periodically because the association refreshes the data continuously. There’s no time limit for claiming your assets.
Federal tax refunds
If you’re still waiting for a tax refund, go to www.irs.gov and click on “Where’s My Refund?” Type in your Social Security number, tax filing status, and the amount of the refund you were owed. You can see if the post office returned your refund to the IRS and update your mailing address if you’re eligible. This service provides information on only the most current tax year, not on prior years’ tax returns. Also, the IRS gives you a three-year grace period to file and claim the money you overpaid in taxes for the past 7 years.
Accounts at failed banks, saving & loans, and credit unions
When a credit union with federal deposit insurance fails, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) makes payments to the institution’s members. If you think the organization might owe you money, check online at www.ncua.gov/resources/assetmgmtcenter/unclaimed.aspx.
If you haven’t claimed insured deposits you had at a bank or savings and loan that went bust, search the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s at closedbanks.fdic.gov/FUNDS/FundsNET/Funds.
Check for unclaimed benefits using the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.’s online search engine, at www.pbgc.gov. Click on Pension Search Directory.
Tracking down your former employer may be difficult if the company has merged or gone out of business. For detailed search instructions, read “Finding a Lost Pension” at www.pbgc.gov/docs/finding_a_lost_pension.pdf.
Life insurance policies
If you suspect that a deceased loved one had a life insurance policy, you can search for it on www.missingmoney.com. If you come up empty, check the decedent’s address book for the names of insurance agents, as well as checkbooks and credit-card statements for records of premium payments. For more tips, go to the American Council of Life Insurers’ website at www.acli.com. Click on “Missing Policy Tips” under “Tools.” To search for a group policy, call your loved one’s last employer.
If you can’t find evidence of an individual policy but still think that he or she had coverage, you can contact MIB Solutions at www.mibsolutions.com. This database has more than 170 million records representing inquiries submitted on individual life insurance applications processed during the last 14 years. The cost is $75 per search.
U.S. Treasury securities
Did you use to hate it when a relative gave you a savings bond when you were a kid? Maybe for a birthday or other special occasion? Well, if they did and you forgot all about it, then you won’t hate them for it now! Billions of dollars in matured savings bonds have never been cashed in — and in fact, a lot of people don’t even know they have them.
Uncle Sam gets back 25,000 interest and principal payments on Treasury securities each year as undeliverable. Billions of dollars in matured savings bonds aren’t cashed even though they no longer earn interest. You can use the Treasury Hunt search engine, at www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/indiv.htm, to track down matured savings bonds or missed payments from securities.
You can also fill out Fiscal Service Form 1048, Claim for Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed United States Savings Bonds. The form and instructions are available https://www.treasurydirect.gov/forms/sav1048.pdf.
At the time of your separation from an employer, if your account is worth less than $5,000 and you neglect to take it with you, your former employer can transfer the money to a so-called default IRA that’s invested in safe options like certificates of deposit or money market funds. Your cash may go into an interest-bearing, federally insured bank account or to your state’s unclaimed property division if your account is worth $1,000 or less. You can also lose track of a 401(k) if you leave it with a former employer who goes bankrupt and abandons the plan.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s mission is to pay out obligations for terminated private pension plans and 401(k) plans that have been terminated by failing employers. PBGC goes through Missing Participants Program to track down employees and connect them with retirement savings they may have forgotten about. To search for a lost plan, start at www.unclaimedretirementbenefits.com,
If you don’t get lucky, contact your former employer and ask if you had a 401(k) account there. If you have difficulty finding your old company because it has merged or changed its name, go to the Department of Labor’s database at www.askebsa.dol.gov/abandonedplansearch.
And please remember: If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam!
For more information, please contact
Community Services Librarian
Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
625 Minnesota Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101
913-295-8250 ext 1103