Does the Government Owe Me Money? How I Found (and Kept) $1,000
There's over $41 billion out there that is unclaimed and currently held by federal and state governments. Does the government owe you money?
You’re going about your business — maybe doing some laundry or trying on an old pair of jeans — when you suddenly pull out a $10 bill! You know the feeling. It’s thrilling to be “rewarded” with found money.
That same feeling came over me a few months ago. But instead of $10, it was $1,185.49. Seriously!
This is no money scam. You don’t have to sign your life away or “invest” in some email scheme. But my money wasn’t hidden in a couch or tucked away in my glove box, either.
The Government and Unclaimed Money
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration, there are over $41 billion out there that are unclaimed. This amount comes from forgotten bank accounts, various refunds, uncashed paydays, distributed funds from trusts, and even stuff you may have hidden in a safety deposit box years ago.
And if you know where to look, then you, too, could be raking in cash that is rightfully yours.
If nobody claims the money or property in a reasonable time (usually a year after attempting to contact the owner), it goes to the state treasury offices. In the case of federally managed money, the IRS or other government agencies may hold it.
Does the Government Owe Me Money? How to Check
In my case, that money was an accumulation of bills that had been sitting with the state of Illinois for over 10 years. It wasn’t until I stumbled across the site MissingMoney.com, typed in my name and some identifying information, and hit “submit” that I realized I had money owed to me by two former employees and from a state income tax refund from 2001.
MissingMoney.com isn’t the only place you can check to see if your state is holding cash for you. You can also go to Unclaimed.org. This is a website run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration. The organization’s aim is to reach and educate those with unclaimed money. It also provides a list of places to check for more unusual circumstances, such as being owed money by an international bank or from pension payouts. You can also check your state’s (or former state’s) treasury department website; they may have a phone number or online database to research.
Both of these sites — as well as the treasury department methods — are free to use. And there’s no charge to claim your property, either. So beware of scammers who attempt to charge you a percentage of the amount that you’re collecting or to make you pay a fee to use their sites. Your money is your money, and you don’t owe it to anyone.
Further Reading: “7 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund”
How Can I Claim Money Owed to Me?
So what happens when your name pops up with an amount owed? It varies from state to state, but in most cases, you’ll need to send in some documentation that proves who you are. For my claim, I needed a notarized form and a copy of something that showed my Social Security number.