At first glance, you might think it’s a fake website.
But Washington state’s Department of Revenue unclaimed property site — claimyourcash.org — is 100 percent legitimate, and can be used to help residents find money that was supposed to be theirs, but somehow never made it to them.
Ming Ming Su-Brown, an Enumclaw resident, was recently archiving financial documents when she came across an un-cashed check.
Problem was, the check was 10 years old.
“I called my insurance company and they indicated that after all this time any money that was due me would have been turned over to the state,” Su-Brown said.
Her insurance agent directed her to the DOR’s website, and they started to search whether the state was holding any money for Su-Brown.
“As my name is unusual, there are different ways that people have erroneously spelled my name, so we were trying all sorts of variations,” Su-Brown said. “I found nothing, but she kept looking. While I was on hold with her, I decided to look up the names of some of my friends and found some unclaimed property for a few of them.”
She tried to direct her friends to the website, but was met with — maybe understandably — some suspicion.
“I found that people were very skeptical and thought that perhaps my Facebook profile had been hacked and someone was posting on my page or that my phone had gotten hacked and was sending messages to them from someone who was trying to engage in fraudulent activity,” she continued. “After actually speaking to my friends on the phone or conversation over text message, my friends then went to the site and started claiming their money.”
Once her friends were convinced the site was run by the state, the word started to spread around her social circle. Su-Brown said her friend’s husband searched the name of one of his friend’s husband on the site, and found the state was holding close to $2,300 for them — “almost the exact amount for a medical bill they had just received,” Su-Brown said.
It’s not uncommon for people to mistrust the idea that the state is holding onto their forgotten money, said Anna Gill, DOR communications manager.
“When I started working here, of course, I started looking up my family members, and my sister had over $100 out there, so I took a snapshot and sent it to her, and her first response to me was, ‘Did you just get spammed?’” Gill said.
But the money is there, though how much may be owed to you widely varies, said Unclaimed Property Operations Manager Tom Garden.
“It ranges from pennies due to dividends or interest someone’s never cashed or a mutual fund to thousand of dollars,” Garden said. Garden said the process starts by businesses or banks attempting to contact a person about their money before it gets remitted to the state — unclaimed paychecks are reported every year, but things like bank accounts and traveler’s checks can take longer.
Once the DOR has the remitted funds, they also try to contact the rightful owner, but if they’re unsuccessful, they’ll hold the money indefinitely.
For DOR’s last full fiscal year (July 2016 to June 2017), the Unclaimed Property division collected more than $127 million in unclaimed property, but only $69 million found its way back to its rightful owners, leaving more than $58 million left with the department.
But that’s only what the department has in intangible property.
“It’s not always money,” said Gill. “Sometimes it’s valuable items — we’ve had in the past things like gold coins, or baseball cards that have value. We even had a sketchbook that was allegedly Pablo Picasso’s sketchbook.”
Unlike intangible funds, the DOR can only hold onto safety deposit box items up to five years before the department is required to hold an auction for the items.
“The last UCP auction was in November 2014,” Gill said. “We plan to arrange one in 2018, but have not yet set a date. We try to conduct one every other year.”