Updated: May 18, 2020
Have you ever heard of unclaimed property? Some people I speak to are aware of it but have never really looked into it. The short version, it's your money that has been misplaced and is waiting for you to come find it!
Unclaimed property is money that at some point was due to you and the agency that owed you a refund wasn't able to locate you to pay back the funds. This could be anything, an overpayment for tuition, a settlement from a medical claim, or a check that was sent to you that was never cashed.
Most states require that companies report these funds to the state within 3-5 years so that individuals can attempt to collect it. It's impossible to give you exact specifics because each state has its own laws and regulations for unclaimed property.
Currently, there's no incentive for companies or states to notify people of refunds due to them. The money is certainly due back to you and if you contact a state for a refund, they will pay it to you, but it's your responsibility to find it.
Every year, $3 billion is returned to their rightful owners.
While legislation is still trying to catch up with the volume of unclaimed property reported and processed for refunds each year, there is not much standardization to the process and it can be an intimidating experience when you're not sure how to proceed.
Recently, I found a tool recommended by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators called Missing Money. Most US states and Canadian provinces participate in this effort to help people locate their unclaimed property. Unfortunately, this search doesn't include 100% of the unclaimed property for each region.
For a complete search, I suggest you search for unclaimed property in your state. Most states include an unclaimed property search through their Comptroller or Treasury websites. Some states have websites dedicated to unclaimed property.
A caution, with billions of dollars waiting to be claimed, there are scams that lure people to share personal identification details. If you're not sure the website you're visiting is legit, just call the state office directly.
A few years ago, I did a search and found out my mom had money due to her from an old medical claim. It was a few hundred dollars, nothing to drastically change her life, but it was a nice surprise nonetheless.
Do a search today, you could be in for a surprise!
As my newsletter and audience grow, I'm beginning to compile tools that are useful for other countries. If you have a similar tool in your country, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to add more resources to this list.
Unclaimed Property in Australia
The Australian Securities & Investment Commission has a tool that allows you to do a search for unclaimed money in one place!
If you've traveled and spent any time living in Australia, give this search a go and maybe you have some money waiting for you.