The State Revenue Source That People Aren’t Talking About

Last year, around this time, my father received a notice in the mail from a third-party notification service that offered to recover “unclaimed property” owed to his dissolved business for a fee. Unclaimed property refers to financial accounts, safe-deposit boxes, funds, or property that is turned over to the government by an organization (financial institutions in many cases) when no activity or interest is generated by the owner, typically after three or more years of dormancy. Change of address is one of the most commonly cited causes for unclaimed property to occur. When these accounts or funds become dormant, they are required by law to be turned over to the state. In 1954, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act of 1954, which prompted states to put systems in place to hold organizations accountable for the lucrative silence surrounding unclaimed property. It’s been amended twice, and only a handful of states have adopted the most recent 1995 versionBeing the not-so-tech-savvy adult that my dad is, he asked me about it, and I looked into it (i.e Googled what is unclaimed property, because, honestly, it sounded like a scam). I had him call the State of Michigan to inquire a bit more about the process, and they informed him that he was owed ~$3,000. I told him he had to file a claim, so we did it together — attached a copy of his ID, SSN, articles of incorporation for the business, and essentially everything else needed to prove that, in fact, these unclaimed funds belonged to him. About 12 weeks later, he got a response stating that he submitted insufficient information to prove that he owned the unclaimed funds.

In the United States alone, there is over $58B in unclaimed property. That’s right, the amount of unclaimed assets is approximately the size of Luxembourg’s GDP. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), in fiscal year 2015, of the $7.63B unclaimed property reported, only $3.235B was returned to rightful owners.

Unclaimed property is one of the fastest growing sources for state revenue, and many believe that most unclaimed property is not reported. According to the Keane Organization, most states estimate only 10–35% of companies follow unclaimed property laws completely, which means all the statistics above are only a fraction of the UCP that’s actually out there. Almost every business entity is required to annually report unclaimed property, and, if they don’t, penalties assessed by state auditors range from $100 per day in Wisconsin to $500 per day in Illinois. In Delaware, unclaimed property is the third largest revenue source for the state government due in part to the large volume of business entities that incorporate in Delaware.

According to Daniel Fisher of Forbes, “As in many other states, California has tightened the period for establishing “unclaimed assets”, from 15 years when the Unclaimed Property Law was first passed in 1959 to seven years in 1976, five in 1988 and three years since 1990. Along the way, it loosened its notice procedure, eliminating notice entirely for items worth less than $50 and running generic 3″X5″ newspaper ads directing readers to a state website to look up property they suspect might be theirs. Seizures rose from $2.7 billion in 2001 to $7.6 billion in FY 2015.” Unclaimed property is the fifth-largest revenue source for California’s general fund, larger than the alcoholic beverage tax, bringing in about $400 million a year. These statistics illustrate the inherent conflict of interest between the state, businesses, and its citizens when it comes to unclaimed property, and how the lucrative silence surrounding unclaimed property has shifted from business entities, prior to the enactment of unclaimed property laws, to the current lucrative silence that allows unclaimed property to become a vital source of revenue for state governments.

So, how are you impacted by unclaimed property?

If you’re a business entity or shareholder, you should care because it could affect next year’s earnings.

If you are a US citizen, you should care because your local and state government probably hasn’t taken the initiative to submit claims, and, chances are, you could be owed money by your state’s government as an individual or as an heir to a relative’s unclaimed property. Find your state database via Google, your state treasurer’s website, or simply utilize, a product of NAUPA, to concurrently search most states.

If you’re a government entity, it’s obvious why you should care about unclaimed property.

It’s a bit contradictory that not only do state governments owe local governments money, but also that state governments, with unparalleled access to data, can’t locate, notify, and return unclaimed property to some of the most notable members of society (Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Elvis Presley), prominent businesses (JP Morgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers), and notable governmental agencies (IRS, SEC, USPS). For example, Enron, even after bankruptcy, still has $158,273.34 in unclaimed property listed in California’s unclaimed property database and $117,226.97 in Texas’ unclaimed property database.

The mere fact that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in TAYLOR v. YEEthat utilizing additional state databases to locate and notify UCP owners “exceeds the minimum due process requirements” is troubling. The plaintiff’s attorney puts it very bluntly in an article by David G. Savage of the LA Times, “When they want to collect taxes or fines, they check the online databases and the DMV records, but not when they want to restore your property. They just send a letter to the same stale address.”

In many cases, the absorption of unclaimed property by state governments is a silent, idle, and unknown tax on citizens, businesses, and government entities to fuel state budgets. Although persons and entities can claim unclaimed property into perpetuity, states are claiming a percentage of unclaimed property into their general funds, which could theoretically be claimed back by its owner or heir. According to a report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office of the State of California, each year, in California, all but $50,000 of the annual ~$400M in unclaimed property is transferred to the General Fund. Additionally, the report estimates that the total potential liability for unclaimed property exceeds $7B. This could be problematic in the future if entities and persons were to claim more than predicted.

In an effort to research the topic further, I submitted FOIA requests to 30 states and the District of Columbia via email and state FOIA portals. I did this by email because the last time I called an UCP office, I was on hold for more than an hour before I got through to a representative. Specifically, I asked for an Excel list (.xlsx) of all unclaimed properties over $1000 with names, specific amounts and last reported addresses, because most states do not list the precise amount that an entity is owed in their unclaimed property databases online.

However, there are three states — California, Hawaii, and Texas that list the precise amount owed in their online databases. Nonetheless, after submitting the FOIA requests, 24 states said I couldn’t have a comprehensive list with specific amounts of UCP with the contingency that I could appeal it through judicial review and 6 states said I could request the name, address, and property amount for a fee. Only 1 state and the District of Columbia granted my FOIA request without a fee. States that denied the request to view the specific amount owed for each unclaimed property denied it on grounds of owner confidentiality, that was typically cited in state statutes. Maine, however, said I could not request the data because I wasn’t a private investigator.

All states were very courteous and responded promptly. However, one response from Tennessee was particularly interesting. The premise for the denial of my FOIA request was that, because I wasn’t a citizen of Tennessee, I could not request data regarding unclaimed property in Tennessee. This answer was a bit paradoxical because, as a non-citizen of Tennessee, I can search their UCP records on their online database, but not as a comprehensive list.

Most states do not release unclaimed property lists with specific amounts. However, some states, such as Wyoming, release said lists for a $1000 fee.

In short, most states do not want to release detailed UCP data. It’s against individual state’s best interest, for what they argue is owner confidentiality, but, it could also potentially lead to lost revenue for state general funds if private organizations helped restore high value entries. My father’s experience submitting a claim for UCP exemplifies the exact opposite of what the system was built to do, restore rightful property to rightful owners.

Hopefully, Americans can collectively figure out how to remove this silent and idle tax on the American public, but until then, states will continue to capitalize on an inefficient bureaucratic system.

Original article by Alex Von Mach. Source:

Kansas state treasurer returning millions in unclaimed property

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The State Treasurer’s Office is working to return $350 million in unclaimed property to Kansans.

The State Treasurer has people’s unclaimed safety deposit boxes, uncashed checks, inactive bank account funds and other unreturned property.

“It’s not the state’s money. There’s over $350 million statewide, and it’s been my pleasure to help return it to folks,” State Treasurer Jake LaTurner said.

The treasurer stopped at the Topeka Shawnee County Library on Monday as part of his 105 county tour. It was his 102nd stop in the statewide tour that is spreading the word about all the unclaimed property.

Robert Aufdemberge went to the library for a book, but he found nearly $100 due to him when he met the treasurer. He said searching the state’s database for his unclaimed property was worth his time.

“$100 for 10 minutes of work isn’t too bad,” Aufdemberge said.

There is $15.9 million in unclaimed property in Shawnee County. To find out if you have unclaimed property, go to or call 1-800-432-0386.


Louisiana State Treasurer issues scam warning about unclaimed property ‘finders’

The State Treasurer’s Office issued a scam warning about hiring so-called “finders” that target individuals who have unclaimed property.

These scammers use information that is available to the public to convince people to hire them to find the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property.

A database of Unclaimed Property records is kept by the state of Louisiana and is available to the public for free.

Finders will contact people who have money being held by the state treasurer’s office and tell them that they discovered a missing asset that belongs to them. The finder will offer to help them claim the money, but there is a fee attached for the assistance.

Some finders are legitimate and operate within the law; however, it will still cost you.

By law, finders legally cannot charge you more than 10 percent of the amount of the Unclaimed Property.

Finders involved in this scam may contact you even if you do not have any money, or they may charge you over the legally allowed rate.

For more information click HERE or call the toll-free hotline: 1-888-925-4127.


Unclaimed Property: 90 Year Old West Virginian Gets Surprise Gift From Husband

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – In just the few minutes Patrick Simon spent with Ms. Louise (her full name is not released to project her safety), he found out right away that clearly two things mattered most to her.

Her mother, who she lost at an early age, forcing her to quickly become an adult, run a house and watch over her young sister.

“So really I was chief cook and bottle washer for about six years while she was growing up and taking care of her and my dad,” said Louise.

Her husband Edward is the second person that meant the most to her. They met right after he returned from the war. All she had to do is offer him baseball tickets.

“And he said yes and that was the beginning as we walked home, and we got married five years later,” said Louise.

Their marriage lasted 64 years … years of living modestly and with hope.

“Enjoy what you get and usually a reward comes, said Louise.”

And now, all these years later, that reward is coming from her husband who once worked at the water company.”

She received  $290,353.15 in unclaimed property from her husband that was found in the State Treasurer’s office.

“This is going to give her a number of opportunities to be able to do a lot of things she never dreamed about doing,” said West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue who’s office oversees the Unclaimed Property office.

How Louise will spend her new found money brings us back to her childhood and the lost her mom and now how she will do anything to help kids in need like she once was.

“St. Jude’s (Research Hospital) … anything to do with kids … and why is that? … because I think they need it (emotional) especially because they have families.”

For more information on the unclaimed property office, click here.


Millions in forgotten UBC paycheques waiting to be collected

Feeling short on cash? The University of British Columbia is sitting on $5 million in uncollected paycheques and interest, and some of it just might be yours.

The university has a stash of forgotten cheques dating back to the early 90s, according to spokesperson Susan Danard. Altogether, they amount to about four per cent of all cheques that would have been paid out in the same time period.

“They might have been seasonal employees or student employees, just here for a couple of weeks, and we stored their cheques — and actually in many cases tried several times to reach the employee and weren’t successful,” she said.

The cheques and all of the interest that has accrued over the years have now been turned over to the British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society, which operates an online database where former employees can search their own names for any missing cash.

Most cheques are small

Most of the cheques are relatively small, with an average amount of $500, according to Danard.

“These are probably people who did maybe a week’s worth of work,” she said.

She added that it’s possible some people were a bit late signing up to have their pay directly deposited when they were first hired, and forgot to pick up the cheque for their first few days.

“We’re very clear on our new cheque policy that we want you to be on direct deposit as soon as you become an employee, and we will mail out cheques now to your home address if you don’t pick it up,” Danard said.

Anyone who’s still working at UBC has already received any cheques they’d forgotten to pick up, she added.

Danard said UBC worked with an external auditor and the Employment Standards Branch to make sure the uncollected cheques were handled properly.

With files from Deborah Goble


Georgia holds $2 billion in unclaimed property

Need some cash? Don’t search your couch cushions or consider a loan just yet. You may have a check waiting on you and don’t even know it. It could be locked in a vault at the Georgia Department of Revenue in Atlanta.

Money, safety deposit boxes, memories — those are some of the things you’ll find here inside the vault of unclaimed property.

“It is not the state’s money, it is the lost owner’s money. We’re just the custodians of it,” William Gaston said.

Gaston is the Spokesman for the Georgia Department of Revenue. He says the state gets money and property from businesses, insurance agencies, or banks.

“In total we have over $2 billion in unclaimed funds,” Gaston said.

And some of that may be yours.

He says the state just wants the rightful owners to come forward.

“This is the taxpayer’s money, this is individual’s money,” Gaston said. “We’re happy to help them claim it. We just have to insure it’s the rightful owner.”

To check to see if you have unclaimed property, click this link, or call 855-329-9863.


Information from the Georgia Department of Revenue

What You Should Know: 

To claim property, you must be its verified owner. Unless you are an estate executor, you can’t pick up property for a relative or friend.

To prevent money and property from going unclaimed, you should share information about your financial records with trusted family and friends, update your address when you move, and quickly respond to mail from your bank and business contacts.

The Department of Revenue provides this service for free; beware of individuals or companies that will charge you a fee for this service.


How do I search for unclaimed money or property?

Find out if there is any unclaimed property in your name or your business’ name on the Department of Revenue website. If you find personal property, you can then request a claim form. If you find business-held property, you’ll need to prepare an authorization form that states that you have the right to act on the business’ behalf.

What proof do I need to claim my property?

You’ll need a notarized claim form, your Social Security card, photo ID, and either proof of address or proof of account. If you’re claiming money or property as an estate executor, you’ll also need the probate documents.

I requested a claim form but haven’t received my property yet. Why is this?

Numerous requests for claim forms come in daily, but not all of these requests correctly match property to owner. It’s possible, for example, that there’s another city resident with your name. So, if you haven’t heard back yet, it’s likely the property is not yours.


Riverside County, CA property tax refunds transferred to general fund

RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized the transfer of property tax overpayments totaling just over $700,000 into Riverside County’s general fund, leaving no further opportunities for the funds to be claimed by would-be eligible recipients.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board ordered that $704,385 in refunds from 2012 and prior tax years go to the treasury.

The Office of the Treasurer-Tax Collector listed nearly 600 individuals and businesses as eligible to receive the funds, in amounts ranging from about $12 to more than $45,000 per person or entity.

The county began circulating notices in early May about the funds’ availability and how the people and businesses owed should go about filing claims.

In previous years, the board postponed action on transfers to give prospective recipients additional time to file a claim. But this year, former Treasurer-Tax Collector Don Kent and board Chairman John Tavaglione decided to get the word out well in advance in the hope that taxpayers would act.

The county placed advertisements in area newspapers, posted links to county web portals and contacted some prospective claimants by letter and phone to bring attention to the fact that the money was available, according to county officials.

Under state law, the county is only obligated to hold the unclaimed funds for four years before it becomes county property.

According to the treasurer-tax collector’s office, most of the refunds stem from changes in the property tax roll that occurred after a payment had been mailed, resulting in savings to the taxpayer.

When the county sends a refund check and it’s returned, it’s placed in a holding account.

A complete list of individuals and businesses eligible for refunds can be found at
. The site is updated annually with new eligible recipients.


Long-lost Purple Heart returned to family of Vietnam vet in East St. Louis

EAST ST. LOUIS – Vietnam veteran Willie Riley searched for his lost Purple Heart for more than 20 years.

He earned the medal in 1968 after a tank he was in hit a landmine. The explosion lifted him 50 feet in the air and broke his arm and leg and severely damaged his eye.

But for years, he thought the medal he earned in that moment was gone forever.

This week, his family discovered that after sitting in a safe deposit box, the medal was turned over to the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office about 10 years ago and has been in its vault ever since.

Riley passed away last December at the age of 71. But on Monday, the lost medal was finally returned to the family he left behind.

His brother-in-law Tommie Turner, of East St. Louis, accepted the Purple Heart from Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs.

Frerichs’ office tracked down the family as part of a program to return unclaimed military medals to their owners or heirs.

Riley’s widow, Lori Riley, who lives in Long Island, N.Y., said she was overcome with emotion when she heard the medal was found.

“I feel like it was the one thing he regretted missing before he died,” she said. “This is something he always took pride in. He wouldn’t want a lot of fanfare, but it would have made him so happy that it’s been found.”

Riley was born in Tennessee, but lived more than 20 years in East St. Louis.

In 1985, he met his future wife in a Dunkin’ Donuts shop where she worked.

“He’d come in and drink coffee for two hours,” Lori Riley said. “So one day I asked him, “You drink a lot of coffee, why do you come in here every day?’ And he says: ‘I come to see you.’ He was so sweet like that.”

The couple married at the home of Willie Riley’s sister, Geraldine Turner, in East St. Louis the next year.

Riley was always close with Turner — and gave her his Purple Heart for safekeeping.

She put it in a safe deposit box, but lost track of it over the years and it was turned over as unclaimed property about 10 years ago.

Geraldine Turner died in 2015, but the medal was still missing.

Frerichs’ office began trying to track down Riley’s family in July as part of its effort to reconnect military medals with their owners, said Lee LoBue, advocacy director for unclaimed property for the office.

“We really made it a high priority,” LoBue said. “It’s a lot of dead ends, but it’s always meaningful when we do find the family.”

Riley’s Purple Heart is the fourth military medal the treasurer’s office has returned to families in the last year, but more than 100 unclaimed medals remain in its vaults.

The office is the custodian of all unclaimed property, including forgotten safe deposit box contents, after private entities are unable to locate recipients for five years.

Frerichs said he started to focus on returning military medals after he noticed them in a case at the treasurer’s office.

“They looked nice, but they don’t belong to us,” Frerichs said. “They belong to the people who earned them.”

The Illinois State Treasurer’s Office asks people who believe they may have relatives with unclaimed property like Willie Riley’s medal to check iCash at to search. All returns of unclaimed property are free of charge.


Illinois Treasurer Frerichs Returns Purple Heart To Family of Vietnam Veteran

Forgotten Medal Makes Its Way Home in Time for Veteran’s Day

EAST ST. LOUIS – Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs today returned a Purple Heart Medal to Tommie Turner, brother-in-law of late Vietnam War Veteran, Willie G. Riley, at a ceremony at East St. Louis City Hall.

The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Frerichs also returned military transfer papers, a savings bond, and jewelry that belonged to Turner and his late wife. The items were discovered in a safe deposit box that was surrendered to the treasurer’s office as unclaimed property.

“As Veteran’s Day approaches, returning this Purple Heart is an incredible way to honor Willie G. Riley and his family for his service and sacrifice to this country,” Frerichs said. “We could not be prouder to have played a role in this reunion.”

Riley served in the United States Army from 1967-1969 and earned a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. Upon receiving the medal, Riley requested that his sister, the late wife of Tommie Turner, place the Purple Heart in her safe deposit box. The contents were surrendered to the treasurer’s office as unclaimed property after Riley’s sister passed away. Turner plans to give the Purple Heart Medal to Mr. Riley’s widow, who lives in New York.

The treasurer’s office has more than 100 unclaimed military medals. Military medals are never auctioned and are kept until the owners or family members are found.

The treasurer’s office is the custodian of unclaimed property, including lost bank accounts, insurance policy proceeds, and forgotten safe deposit boxes. Items are surrendered after private entities tried for at least five years to locate the owners. Because thousands of items are surrendered each year, residents should check I-Cash every six months. Visit for more information. Frerichs’ office never charges money to search for unclaimed property.

About the Illinois Treasurer
The Illinois Treasurer is the state’s chief investment officer and Frerichs is a Certified Public Finance Officer. He protects consumers by encouraging savings plans for college or trade school, increasing financial education among all ages, and removing barriers to a secure retirement. As the state’s Chief Investment Officer, he actively manages approximately $25 billion. The portfolio includes $13 billion in state funds, $7 billion in college savings plans and $5 billion on behalf of local and state governments. The investment approach is cautious to ensure the preservation of capital and returns $28 to the state for every $1 spent in operations. The Treasurer’s Office predates Illinois incorporation in 1818. Voters in 1848 chose to make it an elected office.


Former West Virginia resident ‘numb’ after learning amount of unclaimed property check

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former state resident thought she was getting a thousand, maybe a couple thousand dollars, at most from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund in state Treasurer John Perdue’s office. She may have been the most surprised person in the state capitol Wednesday morning when the check totaling $290,353.15 was unveiled.

The treasurer’s office identifies her only as Louise, her last name not released for security reasons. Louise, 90, and her husband had business interests in West Virginia but she left the state after his death a few years ago. There were a number financial accounts that were never claimed, Perdue said.

“A checking account here, a CD, or something like that–and when he passed away and she sold her home and moved closer to her family out of state then a lot of it became misplaced and over a 10-year period in just kept coming into the treasurer’s office,” Perdue said.

A friend of Louise noticed her late husband’s name on the unclaimed property list and contacted her. Perdue’s staff then started to put the accounts together.

Louise told reporters she went “numb” when she saw the amount of the check. She said she didn’t know what she was going to do with the money.

“Maybe I can buy a house back here–I sold my other one,” she said. “It will save more airfare coming back and forth like I do.”

Louise added she could use the money to help more people.

Perdue said there are similar cases out there. The Unclaimed Property Fund contains millions of dollars that belong to residents, not the state. He said he’s thankful Louise agreed to make her case public.

“She agreed to help us with this program because she wanted to help other people find their money,” Perdue said.

Perdue praised his staff for its work on the case. It was the 12th largest check ever returned from the program.