Man Thought it was a Scam When Caller Said He was Owed $763K. It was Real

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Uncashed paychecks, inactive bank accounts, forgotten utility security deposits and overlooked life insurance policies.

Throughout the U.S., state treasuries have a mind-boggling $43 billion in unclaimed funds just sitting around, waiting for people to claim their money.

Take one extreme example:

A man in South Carolina recently got a phone call from his state treasurer telling him he was entitled to $763,000 in unclaimed cash. Naturally, he thought the whole thing was a scam. But it was true: The money had belonged to his father, who died more than 15 years ago.

Seriously! $763,000!

Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t in line to get three-quarters of a million dollars suddenly dropped on us from the Magical Money Fairy in the Sky.

Too bad. However, you might be surprised by the unclaimed money that’s owed to you.

“You have about a one in four chance of having unclaimed property,” Curtis Loftis, South Carolina’s state treasurer, who is also president of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, told The New York Times.

How to Find Your Lost Money

Unclaimed funds usually result from security deposits that were never retrieved or from uncashed checks. Each state typically has an office that takes care of returning money to its residents. In fact, every state has an unclaimed property program, as do Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and several provinces in Canada.

Each state maintains its own database, but most states are also members of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, also known as NAUPA.

Click on that website’s map to get to the unclaimed property program for your state or province.

Another good place to check is MissingMoney.com, a national database that works with the states. It offers one-stop shopping to search the entire country for your unclaimed money.

Watch out for scammers who try to get you to pay upfront fees for unclaimed money they have supposedly located. You can do the minimal work required yourself, and you don’t have to pay someone else to find your lost property.

How Did My Money Get Lost in the First Place?

Check out the various forms of lost money that could be waiting for you:

  • Forgotten life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts. Inactive accounts are turned over to the state, where the account holder or heirs can claim the money.
  • Contents of safe deposit boxes. Contents are often auctioned, and then the money is held.
  • Utility security deposits.
  • Uncashed paychecks.
  • Uncashed dividend checks.
  • Unclaimed trust distributions.
  • Unclaimed refunds of mortgage insurance.
  • Forgotten retirement accounts.

The $763,000 Example

That brings us back to the lucky guy in South Carolina who suddenly got an unexpected $763,000 windfall.

Here’s what happened: His mother remarried after his father died. Because of confusion about the son’s surname, the money was never sent to him. Instead, it sat around in a lawyer’s office, before eventually being sent to the South Carolina treasurer’s office, which tracked down the recipient.

At first, the recipient was pretty skeptical that this was real. It took multiple conversations to convince him that this was legit.

“No one on the planet believes that they have money waiting for them,” Loftis told the Times.

But you might. There’s no harm in looking.

Your turn: Have you ever filed a claim for unclaimed property?

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He checked, but he didn’t find $763,000 in unclaimed funds waiting for him.