Unclaimed Money, otherwise known as Found Money

Written by Wendy Stultz   // September 19, 2011   // 2 Comments

Photo courtesy cdedbdme Photo courtesy cdedbdme

Have you ever left a job without getting your last paycheck? How about moved and forgotten to submit a change of address to the post office? Or opened a bank account or certificate of deposit (CD) for the reward and then forgotten about it? Or do you have relatives or friends who may have passed away and left you money?

How do you find out about this stuff?

I first heard of this about 15 years ago when I got an unsolicited letter from someone claiming that they could get me my unclaimed funds for “only a small percentage” of what I recovered. This was before the days when email got to be full of African princes who want me to open a bank account in my name to save their nation’s wealth. And it was a real letter. With a real stamp (not presorted). Obviously someone had a lot of time on their hands, but didn’t have a solid business model. I took my letter and did some research on unclaimed funds, found the money in my name (it was a final paycheck totaling less than $50 if I remember correctly) and completed the form to claim my money. On a side note about 3 months later I got another letter from my unsolicited friend in ALL CAPS complaining that I had done this myself (it is a free form and you have to prove your identity with supporting documentation to claim any funds- so no one else could have gotten my money for me) and this person wanted a percentage of my money. Yeah, right. Like I said about a less-than-perfect business model…Not the point of this article though.

Anyway, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA):

  • every state and U.S. territory has a program for unclaimed property
  • unclaimed property laws are among the first consumer protection laws enforced in the U.S
  • the owner or heirs (in most cases) can claim their property in perpetuity (without a time limit)
  • there is a total of $32.877 billion of unclaimed property over 117 million accounts currently being held for the owners

Is any of this yours? Could you be rich and not realize it? Or at least could you get enough back for a cup of coffee and a newspaper? It might be worth a few minutes of your time to check it out.

You can go to either www.unclaimed.org or www.missingmoney.com to begin your search. You will need to go to each state are do a separate search in those states that you have lived in or done business in. Each state’s form is a little different, but you can generally do a search with as little as a last name. Sometimes you will want to search using your first initial or your first name as well. These listed here are the free websites to search. If you choose a different search site, especially one with a fee to search, you are probably hitting a scam.

If you are a visual learner, go here for a Good Morning America video/article on reclaiming property.

Beware- just like with anything good, there is the potential for scams. Those scams may even come as emails supposedly from the director of NAUPA. If someone contacts you and tells you they have unclaimed property for you, investigate before you give them your pertinent information. In general you will need to fill out a form and prove your identity, but should be doing so through a government agency. NOT A BLIND EMAIL. (see above for the African princes who would love to talk to you.)

And if you are getting into the search for forgotten money, check out NAUPA’s list of other sources for unclaimed property, like IRS refund checks, the Veteran’s Administration, Housing and Urban Development, or international sites.

Good luck, and happy hunting! And I won’t even expect a small percentage of what you might find, though if you REALLY want to send me money…:)


  1. By John Dough, February 23, 2019

    Having lived in a couple states and being a former service member, this information is very valuable. Considering even if it only pays for a cup of coffee or a newspaper, anything is better than nothing. Oh by the way, did I mention I am also a prince? Thanks for the article.

  2. By Gilma Elleman, February 23, 2019

    You made some nice points there. I looked on the internet for the subject and found most persons will consent with your website.


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