Imagine if there were unclaimed funds, unclaimed money, and other sorts of unclaimed property sitting around somewhere waiting for the day you’d finally figure it out and snap that loot up. Well, you don’t have to imagine. If you’ve ever had a bank account, belonged to a credit union, held a job, paid taxes, had a loved one die, or bought a whole life insurance policy, some of that $40 billion could actually belong to you. You can actually get to the bottom of whether you’re the owner of any unclaimed property and retrieve it. All by yourself. Without paying a fee or getting scammed in any way. It’s nothing like these hidden fees you had no idea you’ve been paying.
Where to find unclaimed money and property
Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a great big “Unclaimed Money” store where you could stop by, announce yourself, and leave with the bag of unclaimed money with your name on it? The truth isn’t quite as convenient. The fact is, there is no single repository for unclaimed property/unclaimed funds. Rather, states run their own “abandoned property” programs, which often include programs that work to return property to its rightful owner. That’s because the laws that reunite individuals with their unclaimed property were intended to protect (forgetful) owners and give them every chance to collect what’s theirs.
That being said, there’s no shortage of questionable companies that will do the legwork for you in exchange for a fee. Nor is there any shortage of scammers who attempt to lure you into a fruitless search for nonexistent property by convincing you that you’re owed such property and that they know how to get it back for you. So, the bottom line here: Don’t fall for these tricks, or these other online scams you might fall for.
Instead, make use of these free tools:
- Unpaid wages: If you think you may be owed back wages from your employer, search the Wage and Hour Division’s (WHD’s) database of workers to see if you have money waiting to be claimed. WHD is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
- VA life insurance funds: Search the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for unclaimed insurance funds that are owed to certain current or former policyholders or their beneficiaries.
- Pensions from former employers: Search for unclaimed pension money from companies that went out of business or ended a defined plan.
- Tax refunds: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may owe you money if your refund was unclaimed or undelivered.
- Bank failures: Search the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for unclaimed funds from the failed financial institution.
- Credit union failures: Find unclaimed deposits from credit unions.
- Damaged money: The Treasury Department will exchange mutilated or damaged U.S. currency.
- FHA-insurance refunds: If you had an FHA-insured mortgage, you may be eligible for a refund from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). To search the HUD database, you will need your FHA case number (three digits, a dash, and the next six digits—for example, 051-456789).
- Foreign claims: U.S. nationals can find money owed to them from foreign governments after loss of property. For unclaimed federal government funds, this site can point you to the best place to start.
- For funds and property that may be in a state in which you lived at one time, MissingMoney.com can help point you toward unclaimed funds and property. The services are offered for free in partnership with NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators).
What to avoid when searching for unclaimed money and property
The notion that there’s “free money” out there can be incredibly seductive. But don’t let it seduce you into falling for a scam. The first thing to remember is if you really never lived in, say, Kansas, then it’s highly unlikely anyone claiming you have funds in Kansas is anything but a scammer.
And by all means, always follow these rules of thumb:
- Never wire money
- Don’t pay for a prize
- Don’t give out any personal info to an individual or group that reaches out to you (including your social security number)
- Report the scam
That being said, do check out these 17 legit ways to get free money from the government.