How to Avoid Being the Victim of Unclaimed Money Scams
You may have some unclaimed property waiting for you, but you must know where to look. Consult with a state agency, or talk to your bank to determine what steps to take that get the process started. Banks and state departments can also warn you about scams that could be trying to collect unclaimed property on your behalf.
Never Pay a Fee
The key to recognize most scams is the knowledge that real unclaimed property letters never ask you to pay a fee. Scammers may represent themselves as finders or locators that say they need some kind of upfront money to find unclaimed property or money that rightfully belongs to you. Some scammers pretend to be a convenience service that charges a commission of up to 40 percent to recover unclaimed property, while others may have upfront fees for hundreds of dollars.
In addition to exorbitant fees, many scammers simply direct you to websites and forms you can use for free. Others simply try to get more personal information from you, such as a Social Security number, to try to steal your identity. Some scammers are so brazen they attempt to imitate state or federal agencies, when in reality, the departments they represent contain completely fake names.
Several legitimate agencies help consumers track down unclaimed property, money and assets that rightfully belong to you. These companies do so without charging any fees whatsoever. The most comprehensive search starts at MissingMoney.com. Input your last name, first name and state of residence to perform a search. Consider searching states in which you lived previously to find any assets from earlier addresses. The state map on MissingMoney.com directs you to state agencies that have legitimate information regarding possible unclaimed money. The advanced search helps you find any unclaimed assets you may have using a company name.
Consider searching the Internal Revenue Service database for unclaimed income tax returns. Banks or credit unions that failed may also have unclaimed money through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Forms to Complete
Each state has forms to complete for each asset claim. Some departments allow you to fill out an online form that you print, sign and mail to the appropriate address. Other agencies send you a claim packet to your address after you input an email address on the state's official website for unclaimed property. Once you fill out forms verifying your identity to your state of residence, officials begin the process of securing your unclaimed property.
Nearly $33 billion in unclaimed property, money and assets await rightful owners among the federal government, state governments, banks, agencies and financial institutions. Examples of such property include income tax returns, security deposits from utility companies and uncashed paychecks. Unfortunately, scammers may take advantage of people who may have unclaimed property. Learn how to tell the difference between the real thing and someone preying on people who need extra money.