How to Find Unclaimed Money in Your Name For Free

Last Updated February 13, 2012
Excerpted From How to Find Unclaimed Money in Your Name
Excerpted From How to find forgotten assets
Excerpted From Is the Government Holding Your Money?

In October 2008, Stansberry & Associates Investment Research began a working on a research project with several state-run unclaimed-money offices, banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions.

Our mission? To see if our any of our readers have large sums of unclaimed cash in their name. First we looked up the names of some of the analysts who work at our independent shop here at Stansberry. We searched our founder Porter Stansberry’s name first, not knowing what to expect. Turns out, Porter had a handful of unclaimed money out there… dividend checks from Coca-Cola shares that his father bought him when he was a kid.

Then we tried Steve Sjuggerud… Once again, more free money. Blue Cross Blue Shield apparently owes him more than 100 bucks.

Next, we typed in Matt Badiali. Matt’s results were a mix of the two above… He had multiple dividends from shares of Tasty Cakes his father bought him years ago. A few were more than $100.

Amazed at our findings, we did more research. Turns out, the U.S. government is currently holding more than $32 BILLION in unclaimed money and other assets.

Florida, for example, holds more than $1 BILLION in unclaimed money. In fact, the state government recently compiled a list of more than 8 million people who are owed money there. In other words, if you live in Florida, chances are good you or someone you know has some unclaimed money. Or how about Georgia? The state Department of Revenue currently holds about $684 million in unclaimed property. Only $12 million of it was claimed last year. Again, if you live there, chances are good you are owed money. California holds more than $4 billion in unclaimed funds. New York holds more than $7 billion… including more than $1.7 million in a single account.

So we began to wonder, to whom do they owe all that money? Do any of our readers have unclaimed cash they don’t know about? And how can these folks claim what’s rightfully theirs? We cross-referenced unclaimed property accounts in all 50 states with the names in our subscriber files. After this exhaustive process, we now estimate that of tens of thousands of S&A subscribers have unclaimed money they know nothing about. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you take advantage of the situation.

After you’ve searched for unclaimed money in your name, we’ll tell you how to make sure your cash doesn’t go missing ever again. Let’s get started:

Missing Money

It’s estimated that nine out of every 10 people in North America have unclaimed money. This is because it’s easy to lose money. Maybe you’ve moved to a new house and forgotten about a refund or a security deposit the utility company owes you. Maybe an account in your name is receiving dividend payments on a stock you never knew you owned.

Unclaimed money sits in bank and corporate accounts all over the United States. Bank accounts are the most common source of unclaimed money... but it could come from any source. Unredeemed money orders, unredeemed cashier's checks, automatic payroll deposits, refunds, pensions, or mineral royalty payments are other common sources.

The law protects these “forgotten” funds. When a company or bank identifies inactive accounts, it must contact a state official. The state official will then try to locate the owner of the funds or the owner’s heirs. States will hold the funds until they find you. You simply present proof (ID), and they’ll give you your money back at no charge. State officials work hard to return abandoned money to its rightful owners. They’ve created website databases. They put on events to raise public awareness, and they’ve even formed a National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

It is possible for any person or business to quickly determine if there are any funds being held by any state government simply by visiting a website or two.

Missingmoney.com is the latest initiative by the states. Missingmoney.com is an umbrella database of all the state missing-money programs. This is an official database, endorsed by NAUPA, containing the official collective records from most state unclaimed-property programs, which has records from at least 401 states and the District of Columbia and links to agencies in the other states.

To search for these assets, go to Missingmoney.com, which you can also reach by typing www.unclaimed.org and clicking on the Missingmoney.com link.

Simply by entering a person's name or business, one can find out if governments are holding their money. There will be a last known address given and a little thing advising if it's more than or less than $100.00. If the person finds their name and a familiar address, all they have to do is claim the money.

When the person has completed their search in their state of residence, then they should do the following:

Enter their names in any previous states in which they have lived.
Enter any previous names they may have had.
Enter any business names they may have owned.
Enter family member's names.
Enter deceased family member's names (I found some in this category). They may be the beneficiary or next of kin who can claim these funds.
NEVER pay anyone for this service.

I hope you find this suggestion something of value and will consider notifying your readers, clients, and members through your websites or your articles. As part of my job, I'm searching for former employees on a fairly regular basis and I'd guess I find unclaimed funds about every sixth or seventh time I search. Both of my deceased grandmothers were listed with unclaimed dividends and insurance payouts and several of my friends have found un-cashed checks for their kids. It's much better odds than any form of gambling!

Check periodically because the association refreshes the data continuously. And don't worry: States can't play finders keepers with your cash. There's no time limit for claiming your assets. Don’t worry about entering your name in Missingmoney.com's search engine. It’s private. Your name is only used to generate the results of your search. It’s not saved or used for anything else.

We did our searches on Missingmoney.com. Once you type your name into the Missingmoney.com, the database will bring up every entry in the country that matches it. If you have a common name, you can filter by state to reduce the search results. Along with your name, you’ll get an address, state, and the name of the company that reported the balance. Missingmoney.com will also tell you whether the amount owed to you is more or less than $100.

After you click on your name, Missingmoney.com will direct you to your state’s missing-money website. Here you’ll find instructions for proving your identity and claiming your missing money. The unclaimed-money law says companies must send lost funds to the state of the owner’s last known address. This means you could potentially have unclaimed property in every state you’ve lived in.

After you’ve checked Missingmoney.com, go to www.unclaimed.org. This second website links you to all 50 official state unclaimed-property websites. You should check every state you’ve ever lived in.

One more thing: You should never pay anyone to search for your missing money. Nor should you ever give anyone a finder’s fee for tracking down your money. Your tax dollars already fund this process and the states should not charge for the service of returning your hard earned money to you.

Several businesses use the state databases and the Freedom of Information Act to obtain your missing money information. Some of these businesses are fraudulent. They use this information as bait. They either want you to pay for a search or pay them a commission for finding your money. You have free access to the same databases these companies use. There’s no need to pay them. If you’re unsure about a business saying it will help you recover unclaimed funds, check with the Better Business Bureau (search.bbb.org ).

The Federal Government Also Holds Unclaimed Cash

Some federal agencies also hold unclaimed funds. The IRS holds 92,000 undeliverable tax-refund checks. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. holds lost pension funds. The FDIC may owe you money if you’ve lost funds in a bank closure. The U.S. Department of Housing may owe you a refund on your HUD/FHA mortgage insurance premium. The Bureau of the Public Debt holds $15 billion in lost savings bonds and funds from matured savings bonds.

U.S. Treasury securities
Uncle Sam gets back 25,000 interest and principal payments on Treasury securities each year as undeliverable. Billions of dollars in matured savings bonds aren't cashed even though they no longer earn interest. You can use the Treasury Hunt search engine, at www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/indiv.htm, to track down matured savings bonds or missed payments from securities. Click on "Search for Your Securities in Treasury Hunt." Simply type in your Social Security number to start.


The practice of putting Social Security numbers on savings bonds dates only to the mid-1970s. Consequently, the Treasury Hunt search engine can only identify bonds issued in 1974 or later. If you're looking for older bonds or those that are still drawing interest, go to www.treasurydirect.gov. Click on the "Forms" tab, then download 1048, which is used for lost, stolen, or destroyed savings bonds. Fill in as much information as you have, including the issue date of the missing bonds (or a range of possible dates), their face amount and serial numbers, and the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of their owners. If you're the executor of an estate and searching for someone else's bonds, you'll have to provide documentation of your legal authority.

Accounts at failed banks, S&Ls, and credit unions
If you haven't claimed insured deposits you had at a bank or savings and loan that went bust, search the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s website, at www2.fdic.gov/funds/index.asp.

When a credit union with federal deposit insurance fails, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) makes payments to the institution's members. If you think the organization might owe you money, check online at www.ncua.gov/resources/assetmgmtcenter/unclaimed.aspx.

Defined-benefit pensions
Searching for a traditional defined-benefit pension is relatively easy if you earned one from a plan that no longer exists. In that case, check for unclaimed benefits using the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s online search engine, at www.pbgc.gov. Click on "Pension Search Directory".

You'll have to do more legwork if you earned benefits from a pension plan that still exists. First track down your former employer, which may be difficult if the company has merged or gone out of business. For detailed search instructions, read "Finding a Lost Pension" at www.pbgc.gov/docs/finding_a_lost_pension.pdf.

Once you find your former employer, send a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the administrator of its pension plan or, if appropriate, to the insurance company that's paying out benefits. List the dates of your employment and ask if you qualify for benefits.

If you need help, you can contact the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which has regional and district offices for people having problems with their pensions. To find an office in your area, go to www.dol.gov/ebsa/ and click on "EBSA Regional Offices." In addition, some states have federally funded pension counseling projects. You can review a list of them in "Finding a Lost Pension." For other resources, check out the Pension Rights Center's PensionHelp America website, at www.pensionhelp.org.

401(k) plans
There are plenty of ways to lose a 401(k) or other defined-contribution retirement savings plan. If your account is worth more than $5,000, you can choose to leave it with your old employer when you change jobs. Your former employer or the firm that manages its 401(k) plan might lose track of you if you move and fail to let them know your new address.

If your account is worth less than $5,000 and you neglect to take it with you when you switch jobs, your former employer can transfer the money to a so-called default IRA that's invested in safe options like certificates of deposit or money market funds. Your cash may go into an interest-bearing, federally insured bank account or to your state's unclaimed property division if your account is worth $1,000 or less. You can also lose track of a 401(k) if you leave it with a former employer who goes bankrupt and abandons the plan.

To search for a lost plan, start at www.unclaimedretirementbenefits.com, a website where plan sponsors, administrators, and custodians register missing participants who have unclaimed retirement funds. The site accounts for more than $80 million in benefits, according to Spiro Preovolos, director of operations for PenChecks, the retirement plan distribution processing company that runs the database. All you need to supply is your Social Security number. If the search engine finds a match, you'll be asked to provide your current contact information so the employer can get in touch with you and make arrangements for you to get your money.

If you don't get lucky, contact your former employer and ask if you had a 401(k) account there. If you have difficulty finding your old company because it has merged or changed its name, consult the PBGC's booklet, "Finding a Lost Pension," described earlier in this report. To search for an abandoned plan, go to the Department of Labor's database, at www.askebsa.dol.gov/abandonedplansearch.

Life insurance policies
If you suspect that a deceased loved one had a life insurance policy, you can search for it on Missingmoney.com. If you come up empty, check the decedent's address book for the names of insurance agents, as well as checkbooks and credit-card statements for records of premium payments. For more tips, go to the American Council of Life Insurers' website, at www.acli.com. Click on "Missing Policy Tips" under "Tools." To search for a group policy, call your loved one's last employer.

If you can't find evidence of an individual policy but still think that he or she had coverage, you can hire MIB Solutions to look for you. Go to www.mibsolutions.com, click on "Solutions," and then on "Policy Locator." MIB's database has more than 170 million records representing inquiries submitted on individual life insurance applications processed during the last 14 years. The cost is $75 per search.

Federal tax refunds
If you're still waiting for a tax refund, go to www.irs.gov and click on "Where's My Refund?" Type in your Social Security number, tax filing status, and the amount of the refund you were owed. You can see if the post office returned your refund to the IRS and update your mailing address if you're eligible. This service provides information on only the most current tax year, not on prior years' tax returns.

How to Make Sure You Never Lose Money Again

The main reason people lose money is they change their address without alerting companies they do business with. Whenever you change address or your marital status, you should contact your bank and any other institutions that hold your money. Notify these institutions in typed writing.

Don’t let accounts become dormant. Cash all checks as soon as you receive them. Keep accurate records of your accounts and deposits you’ve paid. If you keep a safety deposit box, let a trusted relative have the bank’s name, address, and box number. Finally, make sure you file a will.