Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

Piles of Money Waiting To Be Found

It’s a long story how Matt and Jenny lost 5,000 shares of Texaco-Canada stock. But they did. They believed their money was well-invested when they relocated to the U.S.

Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

They were unaware that when the company was sold to Texaco USA, all shares were liquidated and the proceeds returned to their rightful owners.

No doubt, a check was mailed to them, but by then they were long gone and their forwarding information had expired. So what happened to those funds? That’s what I set out to discover. And in the process, I discovered a lot more.

Matt and Jenny are not alone. From security deposits to expired gift certificates, insurance refunds to old bank accounts, and proceeds from class-action suits, Americans are missing out on billions of dollars simply because they are unaware.

Piles of money

Unclaimed property refund checks are often in the $800 to $1,000 range. Even so each year states return only 4 percent of unclaimed assets to their rightful owners. Most owners don’t know they have money coming and it is simple to find the money that the state or federal governments have for you to claim.

Unclaimed property is generally defined as any financial asset that has had no activity by its owner for a period of five years or more. This includes savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, checking accounts, uncashed dividends, stocks, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, matured life insurance policies, and uncashed death benefit checks.

Forgotten funds

For example, if you have ever moved without getting your utility deposit back or forgotten about an old checking or savings account, you are entitled to those funds. Banks, insurance and utility companies, landlords or brokerage firms cannot keep your money simply because they cannot find you or you fail to pick it up. Federal and state laws require that those funds be held in safekeeping until their rightful owners (you!) claim them or until the property is sold at auction.

Start searching

Many states offer free online access to property databases and even online claim forms. To find that online do a simple google search, i.e. “unclaimed funds California.”

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, ( a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Association of State Treasurers, is an excellent source of information on unclaimed property. You can access all states through their website.

Forgot your refund?

The IRS provides specific information on its website on how to obtain a past refund that remains unclaimed. You can also try its toll-free phone number, 800 829-1040.

Search for others

If the unclaimed property is not in your name, you must prove that you are the legal guardian or rightful heir to recoup it. That is not a difficult task.

More than $8 billion worth of matured savings bonds have never been cashed. You can bring your uncashed savings bonds to your local bank, which will cash them in for you. If you think you have lost a savings bond and have a record of the serial number, go to to look up its status.

Also, bonds that are lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed can be replaced free of charge as long as the Bureau of the Public Debt can establish that the bonds haven’t been cashed.

Surprise! Look what I found!

While it required an attorney to locate Matt and Jenny’s stock sale proceeds, I did find $43.54 with their name on it, just waiting to be claimed. It seems the insurance company misspelled their street name so a refund was returned as undeliverable and eventually turned over to the State of California.

But that’s not all. In searching under the names of family members I found $85.90 for my husband’s parents (a refund that was mailed to an old address after forwarding information had expired).

Still more: I searched for myself and found a $125 insurance check that was returned as undeliverable because the sender failed to include our zip code. I have no idea the reason for this refund, but I’m not asking questions. I completed the simple claim form, sent in copies of identifying information, and received a check 5 days later.

A pile of money—large or small—just might be waiting for you to claim what is rightfully yours! Or to surprise someone you know and love. At the very least, it is rather enjoyable to go on a search.


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  1. Cally R Ross says:

    Sadly, some of it will never be collected. when all the involved parties are deceased, disinterested or estranged, the funds will just sit there.

  2. Cally R Ross says:

    I found $1400 for my parents (who are still living, thankfully) and funds for my husband’s father (who isn’t living). It’s amazing how one can “forget” about money!!

  3. Deena Costley says:

    I had a jewelry store gift card turned in to the state due to lack of use. I found out when I went in to spend it. What was odd is that it wasn’t sent to my state, even though that’s where it was purchased and previously used. Seems Helzberg’s reported it to the state that their home office is in…Missouri. Not only that, but by law, they were only required to send 40% of the funds on the card to the state. I had to request from Missouri the funds that was sent to them & after some electronic shaming, Helzberg’s sent the rest. Beware

  4. Kathy says:

    Sometimes, it can be difficult to claim money in a deceased relative’s name. I followed directions, but more & more stipulations were added. Finally, I threatened to get one of our U.S. Representatives involved before the check was issued. Persistance is my strength, luckily.

    • Sheri J says:

      Thank you for sharing this. We are trying to collect a death benefit that my husbands father purchased in 1999 but having a similar experience as we weren’t aware of the policy. I am waiting on a response on my latest batch of documentation sent proving the connection. It has been challenging to say the least. People! Inform your beneficiaries of details. Insurance entities will NOT track you down. In fact the policy application my FIL filled out asked for nothing more than the beneficiary name and relationship so United of Omaha made up an address for my husband when the funds were escheated to the state. I Googled that address and it is pasture land with an outbuilding or 2 on it. The state is saying a proof they will accept is a bill addressed to my husband at that address so we are kind of out of luck there aren’t we? The longer this drags out the more chance legitimate records will be purged from the databases that I need and I am lucky to have found the info I have I suppose. I will gather what I have so far to send it to our Representative.

  5. Karla says:

    Somehow we were turned onto this years ago. Every year the Omaha World Herald (our largest state paper) has a huge list of unclaimed property. One year we did find a small amount coming to us, but like you the interesting thing has been money that we have found for family and friends. The amount might not be huge but it is like a treasure hunt and actually a lot of fun! I can’t wait to tell him that we should be checking unclaimed property in other states as well. 🙂

  6. Linda D Radosevich says:

    To confirm your comments, Mary, (and as an anecdote), my mom received a check from a bank in the town where she lived, thirty years later, from a forgotten savings account. It was the exact amount needed for an insurance premium that had just come due!

  7. Elizabeth K Hahn says:

    I looked on the Colorado: Great Colorado Payback and found 3 claims for my father who is now deceased. All 3 say under $50. When I went in to start a claim it says I have to give them my Social Security number. I am afraid to do this? Is this legitimate?

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I cannot guarantee anything, but I have no reason to believe is it not legitimate. I think they may be needing to confirm that you are legitimate? You must give proof of your connection to the deceased. Be smart, be cautious. But don’t assume more than is reasonable either.

  8. Julie McManus says:

    Thanks Mary, I just found $100 for my husband (his deceased father’s) and $20 for my daughter. We all have filed a claim.

  9. Deb R. says:

    I found $600 for my mother-in-law once. It was in her maiden name and she’d been married since 1950! I also found that my aunt, who died in 2001, has four listings, one of which is Esso stock, however the two surviving heirs who could claim it are not interested! I’m interested but can’t do it. And I just found out that my maternal grandmother (deceased) has some unclaimed funds listed but I need copies of my mother’s birth, marriage, and death certificates as well as my own birth certificate and marriage license. And I am guessing that I will need proof that my aunt, estranged from the family, is deceased as well (her obit didn’t even her mother / my grandmother’s name correct).

  10. Suzi White says:

    In going through my late grandmother’s paperwork, and found old life insurance policies on my mother, her deceased sister, my sister and me!
    It’s been difficult to track mine down because people were working from their homes and my policy number wasn’t in the computer.
    My mother was able to collect from my grandmother and for my cousin on the policy for her late sister.

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