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Questions and Fast Facts About Unclaimed Property

Every U.S. state, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands - and Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada have unclaimed property programs that actively find owners of lost and forgotten assets.
Unclaimed property laws have been around since at least the 1940s, but have become much broader and more enforced in the last 15 years. Unclaimed property is one of the original consumer protection programs.
$1.754 billion returned to the rightful owners in Fiscal Year 2006 from 1.929 million accounts Total of at least $32.877 billion is currently being safeguarded by state treasurers and other agencies for 117 million accounts.

Claims can be made into perpetuity in most cases - even by heirs, although many entities will limit the time you have to collect to 25 years or less. At this time, the money becomes property of that government entity.

Billions of dollars have been lost. Could some of it be yours?

What is unclaimed property?

Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

What happens to these accounts that have no activity?

Acting in the best interest of consumers, each state has enacted an unclaimed property statute that protects your funds from reverting back to the company if you have lost contact with them. These laws instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who will then make a diligent effort to find you or your heirs. Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner.

How do government entities try to return this money?

The government officials who administer the unclaimed property programs have developed many powerful and effective methods to locate owners including the use of websites, cross-checking public data, staging thousands of awareness events at fairs and even shopping malls, and developing multiple databases. Sometimes The methods work as tens of millions of potential lost owners inquire annually resulting in this vital consumer protection program returning money to people at a rate approaching two billion dollars annually.

How do I begin my free search?

Companies are required by law to send funds from lost accounts to the proper government officials. That means you could potentially have unclaimed property in every state plus national databases. You could search through all the databases your self, but this is very often hit-or-miss and you may be missing thousands of dollars simply because of not knowing where or how to look. You would have to search through the official collective records from all federal, state,  county, and local unclaimed property programs. Searching through these sites is technically FREE.
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If searching is free, why have I received notices that there is a charge to search?

The Cash Detective used the states' freedom of information acts to obtain owner information. We notify individuals that they will conduct a search for unclaimed property in their name for a fee. Many states do not provide complete records to these firms to protect your privacy, but enough to let them know who to contact. The bottom line is that you may elect not pay The Cash Detective to search if you wish, but it may cost you thousands of dollars just simply because you may not know where to search or exactly the best way to search and may Miss finding everything that is rightfully yours. All the information is accessible to you free of charge by searching the various databases, but searching and finding is both a science and an art.

I have received a notice from the cash detective that property has been found, but there is a fee to obtain it.

The Cash Detective is a business and we are called finders or locators. We find legitimate lost property for owners and offer to inform them of how to obtain it for a fee, usually a percentage of the total (some government entities limit the fee to 10 percent). We will never charge more than the legal amount. Sometimes, companies may hire us to find you before they turn the funds over to the state. Ultimately we, as the finder, will ask you to sign a contract. We work within the law while providing you a valuable service.
Watch out!!! There are also many unclaimed property scams across the United States.

Never sign any contract from a firm of this type which charges you a fee before you are reunited with your money. We recommend that you be cautious and read the contract completely.

The cash detectives will never ask for any payment (even when we find your funds)  before all the paperwork has been filed, and you actually have your recovered funds in Hand. Usually this payment is in the form of a check directly from the government agency holding your funds.  You will have every opportunity to contact the government agency yourself to totally verify the veracity of the funds you have received.

How do I keep my property from becoming lost in the future?

Remember, property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. For security reasons, most financial institutions do not forward mail. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits.

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