Every year millions of dollars that should be in the pockets of Americans instead ends up being held by the government, which holds it until the rightful owner comes forward to claim it.
It’s called “unclaimed property” and it could range from a few bucks to thousands of dollars.
So what even is unclaimed property?
If a business, government office, or other source owes you money that you don’t collect, it’s considered unclaimed, according to the U.S. government.
Former employers can also be responsible for your unclaimed cash. Have you ever worked a job for a few days, left abruptly and not collected your paycheck? It’s a very specific example, sure, but if the answer’s “yes,” you might have unclaimed property that the government is holding for you.
Unpaid wages are just one example of what the government considers unclaimed property.
If you’ve ever belonged to a failed financial institute or overpaid a utility bill, that could also count.
But it can also come in the form of old bank accounts, stocks, trust funds, uncashed cashier’s checks or money orders or even unclaimed tax returns.
It’s all money that you are entitled to that former employers, corporations or the government has been unable to get to you.
And it’s free to look up.
In California, the state is required to do its best to contact you and let you know about your missing money, but sometimes those efforts go nowhere.
“Contact is often lost when the owner forgets the account exists or moves and does not leave a forwarding address. In some cases, the owner dies with heirs who have no knowledge of the property,” according to the California State Controller’s Office.
If the state is unsuccessful, then it becomes your job to find out if you have property waiting to be claimed.
Californians can search on the Controller’s Office website to look up any unclaimed property. There are also detailed instructions for how to make a claim and what you need to do to prove your identity.
But what if you’ve previously lived and worked outside of California? Luckily, the majority of other states across the country can all be searched at once through MissingMoney.com. The website is endorsed by the federal government.
If you find that you have unclaimed property, you’ll need to file a claim and wait to have your request processed.
The money is typically issued in the form of a check and it’s usually free to file a claim, although how to verify your identity varies from state to state.
There’s no limit on how often you can search and you might find you have money floating around in more than one place. So give it a try and make sure you aren’t missing out on your hard-earned cash.
For a complete breakdown of the different types of unclaimed property and how to find them, click here.