Tips for Searching for Your Unclaimed Property

Tips for searching for your unclaimed propertyBy Kimberly DeCarrera

States hold more approximately $42 billion in unclaimed property, with more being added every year. Every state has unclaimed property laws requiring companies to report unclaimed property to a state agency, to hold it until you or your family can claim the money. Unclaimed property can include old bank accounts, life insurance proceeds, payroll checks, and gift cards. Money becomes unclaimed property when a company loses contact with you, in reference to that property, for a period of time, generally 1-5 years. In some cases, you could still be doing business with them and they have unclaimed property (think refund checks or credits on your account, expense checks from your employer, etc).

Once you become aware of unclaimed property, you want to find out if you have any! To do so, you will need to search your state's unclaimed property database. If you find your name in there, you can begin the claims process. Below are some tips on finding your unclaimed property:

Search the state you live in now as well as states where you previously lived.
Companies report unclaimed property based on the address that they have on file for you. Thus, if the company has an old, out-of-state address for you, they will report it to that state. Don't count on the fact that you have told them you have a new address either. Sometimes, your address may get updated in one system but not all company systems. Unfortunately, you do not know which system that they pulled the information from. So search all the states you have ever lived in.

For links to each of the state unclaimed property websites, visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

Search other states for potential unclaimed property.
Hold on, you just said that the companies report my money to the state from the address on record, so why do I need to search other states? There are a variety of reasons why you may need to search in other states for your unclaimed property, even if you never lived there. Sometimes, companies have property listed with an "In Care Of" address - perhaps your parents, a lawyer, trustee, or even the bank. Other times, there is just a typo - addresses get messed up or a digit gets left off a zip code. This could change your address from Georgia to Connecticut, or any variety of other states.

Also, if for some reason, your address gets disassociated with the check or property, the company has to report it to their state of incorporation. This is different than the state of their headquarters, but rather their legal state of incorporation. Many companies are incorporated in Delaware, so that's a great state to check. Their unclaimed property database can be searched at Delaware Online.

You can search many of the states at one time by visiting MissingMoney.com.

Try Common Misspellings of Your Name
We recommend that you try searching for common misspellings of your name. For example, my last name is "DeCarrera" so I could search for "DeCarera," "DeCarrara," or "Carrera." The states use the names as they are given to them by the reporting companies. So if you ever see your name misspelled on invoices, shipping statements, or other company records, you may have unclaimed property listed under a different name.

If you've changed your name, whether because of marriage, divorce or otherwise, be sure to search under your old name(s) as well!

Last name first, First name last
In addition to common misspellings, try putting your first name in the last name box. You'll probably get more hits and it will take longer to sift through the results, but you might find that your name has been parsed incorrectly.

Make the Search as Broad as Possible
Some states ask for you to enter a city to narrow the results for you. We recommend that you search in as broad of a region as possible - don't limit it by city!

Good luck searching for your unclaimed property!

Also, check out our tips to avoid your money from becoming unclaimed.