Electronic Treasure Hunting: Search Your Unclaimed Property
This week was going down for me as one of the most financially annoying weeks in history. A thief hacked into my bank accounts and drained my checking and savings accounts over the weekend. However, as I was flipping through my mail yesterday, I saw a letter from a law firm in California. I wish for no more bad news as I held my breath and opened the letter. To my surprise, it was actually good news. The letter was actually from an unclaimed property investigator firm in California.
Private investigators had found old stock certificates from a company that I quit working for back in 2010. The stocks were in my maiden name and the last address my former employer had was my oversees APO, AP address. The letter explained that they would gladly retrieve my stocks for me for a finder’s fee.
I didn’t want to pay the finder’s fee. I called up the employee help line for my former company to find out more about my stocks. They informed me that after I left the company, they were unable to get in touch with me (I was in South Korea). After several attempts they turned my stock certificates and dividends over to the State of California as unclaimed property. My stock certificates had been soaking up the California sunshine ever since.
What is Unclaimed Property?
When a company or government agency owes you money, property, or other assets, they attempt to return it to you, but if they can’t find you, they hand the asset over to the state. Examples of unclaimed property are uncashed rebate checks, deposits on a utility account, overpaid tuition, or even unclaimed money from a closed or abandoned bank account. Each state keep detailed records of all these assets. Most have their own website where you can search for your property and file a claim to get it back.
What to do:
Finding out if you have unclaimed property is very simple. If you know the specific state where you’d like to search for your property, simply use a search engine and type in the state you want to search and “unclaimed property”.
Since military households live nomadic lives, an easy trick to search many states quickly is to use Credit Karma’s “Unclaimed Money” feature on their website. Credit Karma partners with many states to help you reclaim your property. If the state you need is not one of their partner states, they will send you directly to that state’s website.
What I Found:
I went directly to California’s site for unclaimed property site. Even though I had never lived there, my APO, AP address is based out of San Francisco, CA. Likewise, if you’ve ever lived or deployed with an APO AE address, make sure you check for unclaimed property in New York. If you’ve ever had an APO AA address, check for property in Florida.
I found that I had about $2,500 in unclaimed stock certificates and dividends from my former employer! California makes you mail in requests along with supporting documents (especially because of my name change) for stock certificates and assets over $1,000 but for the seven years’ worth of dividends. I was able to electronically claim the dividends and the State of California mailed me about 30 separate checks about two weeks later. I was also able to claim the stock certificates online, but I had to mail in a few notarized supporting documents.
Now I was hungry for any other unclaimed property I didn’t know about. I used Credit Karma’s Unclaimed Money link and found $28 from a utility deposit from when I was in college. I didn’t stop there. Next, I started checking for my other members in my family. You can search for anyone’s unclaimed property with usually just their first and last name. However, only the owner can claim it. My husband was bummed to find out he had no unclaimed property. However, I did find $178 for my brother in Texas and over $1,000 for my late grandmother in Illinois.
A letter I almost mistook for junk mail helped to make my financially sucky week turn out alright by finding over $2,500 for myself in unclaimed property! Are you going to turn into a modern-day electronic treasure hunter? Let me know if you find any financial windfalls for yourself! Happy hunting!