Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Money Talks-Unclaimed Money

Money Talks-Unclaimed Money

Throughout the United States, people are discovering lost stashes of money they didn't know existed.

No, it's not from cleaning out their attics or up-ending their mattresses. It's actually from the government- money in the form of unclaimed money and property. And there are billions of dollars of it is still to be returned. The latest estimates have been $40 Billion dollars nationwide.

For years, talkshows have featured episodes entirely on unclaimed money. NBC's Katie Couric recently reported in the Today Show, there were billions of dollars in lost assets with the US government including $62 million in uncashed refund checks held by the IRS. Oprah Winfrey was even able to reunite some members of her studio audience with thousands of dollars of unclaimed money after doing an on-the-spot search. Oprah noted 7 out of 10 Americans may be due a claim.

How does this happen? This question appears to be the most common question and the biggest reason many Americans remain skeptical and never search.

When people move or get a new job, get married or pass-away, they tend to lose track of financial assets like bank accounts, tax returns, checks, stocks, bonds, etc. These assets are turned over to the state as required by escheat rules which state that (according to Wikipedia) "when an entity (such as a bank) holds money or property (such as an account in that bank) and the property goes unclaimed. In many jurisdictions, if the owner cannot be located, such property can be escheated to the government." The period that banks and businesses can hold-on to these assets before turning them over is called the 'dormancy period' (the average is 3-5 years) and it varies from state to state. These lost assets go into each state's unclaimed property fund where they stay until their rightful owners show-up. There is generally no time limit (Idaho is an exception with 10 years) as to how long these assets are claimed- as long as the identity of the claimant and the validity of the claim is established.

In an effort to locate rightful owners of money owed, the Unclaimed Property Division in the states' Treasury Departments have outreach programs, but only a small fraction of unclaimed money they are suppose to return is successfully reunited with its rightful owners. This is due to a lack of manpower and no centralized government unclaimed property database.

State Treasurers urge all residents to check if their names are on the list of unclaimed property owners. These are published annually in government websites, newspapers and public places like state fairs. Most are surprised at the names which turn-up on the unclaimed lists. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore, even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were on lists of people who were owed unclaimed property or money. And to think these people aren't even difficult to locate.

With millions added every year to the unclaimed money fund, American citizens are encouraged to conduct an unclaimed property search in every state they have ever lived or worked.

The process of searching for unclaimed property and unclaimed money databases can be as simple as entering one's name in a search box. If the results show that you are on the list, an on-line claim form is usually available online to verify you are indeed the rightful owner.

WARNING: Many unclaimed money sites entice you with supposed "free" searches, and if a match is made will request payment to access the database. Considering you need to search at least once per year, this method could get costly. Unclaimed money expert Russ Johnson, of UnclaimedMoney.net does not charge on a per search basis and offers lifetime access. Russ says "say goodbye to those blood sucking unclaimed money websites! Utilize lifetime access sites and never pay for access again. Most of these databases are misleading, outdated and almost always containing only a small fraction of actual claims.

Unclaimed money and property expert Russ Johnson has been assisting Americans in finding their unclaimed money online since 1997. His sites are http://www.unclaimedmoney.net and http://www.unclaimedfunds.net which are updated regularly and are guaranteed official searches.

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