If you think it’s fun to find money under couch cushions or a random coin in a parking lot, just wait until you start looking through databases for finding lost or unclaimed money. Chances are, you’ll find it more fun – and possibly far more profitable.
Banks, insurance companies and the U.S. Treasury, among other organizations, have websites that are designed to help people find money owed to them that, for whatever reason, never made it to their bank accounts.
Say you closed out an old bank account and failed to withdraw payments from a former employer. Or you switched jobs and forgot about a former retirement or pension plan. Maybe you moved and neglected to update your address, resulting in a misaddressed payment or tax refund.
If there’s money out there that’s owed to you, it may be waiting for you in a database.
Granted, it may only be pennies – or it may be big bucks. In any case, if you think you might have let some of your dough slip through the cracks, here’s what could be out there, waiting for you to find it:
So if you’re wondering where to find unclaimed cash, check out these sources:
To pinpoint an unclaimed pension from an old job, check out Pbgc.gov/search-unclaimed-pensions, a website run by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a U.S. government agency. PenChecks Trust, which offers retirement plan distributions, also has a registry database of unclaimed retirement benefits, where both employers and employees may pinpoint unclaimed retirement funds.
You may also want to consult https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator, a website run by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. If you’re wondering whether a life insurance policy is out there, that might have money owed to you, you would probably find it in this database.
If you think the Internal Revenue Service owes you a refund, check out the Where’s My Refund site, managed by the IRS. In fact, you may want to go there quickly: There’s a three-year cap for claiming a refund from the IRS before the money belongs to the U.S. Treasury. Also, if you’ve recently moved, make sure you haven’t provided an incorrect address when filing your taxes to prevent having to track down an undeliverable check from Uncle Sam.
Most states have their own websites where you can look for unclaimed money, such as state tax refunds, although you may find other types of money owed, like cash sitting in abandoned bank accounts. Type your state and “unclaimed money” or “unclaimed cash” into a search engine such as Google, and you’ll find your state’s unclaimed money website.
If you believe you have unclaimed money left in a bank account long ago, check out MissingMoney.com or Unclaimed.org, which are both operated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. If you used to belong to a credit union, you may want to consult www.ncua.gov/support-services/unclaimed-deposits, a site managed by the National Credit Union Administration, where you may find an unclaimed deposit.
Steve Wiegenstein, an author in Columbia, Missouri, suggests visiting MissingMoney.com, a website he had some luck with. “I found $178 from the state of Illinois that was owed to me as an unclaimed escrow return from the sale of a house that occurred nearly 10 years ago,” he says.
He adds that he then recommended MissingMoney.com to his daughter. “She found a utility refund from Iowa that dated back to her college years,” he says.
Maybe you worked somewhere years ago and left in a hurry and didn’t collect a final paycheck. If you think you might be owed unpaid back wages, visit http://webapps.dol.gov/wow, a website run by the Wage and Hour Division in the Department of Labor.
If you think you have lost, stolen or destroyed savings bonds, you can contact the U.S. Treasury at Treasurydirect.gov. You’ll have to submit a form, Form 1048, for lost, stolen or destroyed savings bonds.
Before you recover lost or forgotten funds, it’s important to take caution to sidestep common missing-money scams. Once you tap into resources for finding unclaimed money, apply these strategies to stay prepared and avoid scams.
As you may recall, earlier this year, the Trump administration and Congress passed The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which provided up to $1,200 to individuals, with an additional $500 for each qualifying child.
Do Not Pay Someone to Find Money for You
Occasionally, you might encounter a company or an individual offering to collect your unclaimed funds for you – for a price. Before you hire someone, do some digging to ensure the individual or company is reputable. If you opt to hire someone rather than going directly to the source, keep in mind that you’ll likely pay that person or company 10% to 20% of the money you collect.
You should also exercise caution if you receive any letters or emails that suggest you can be reunited with some unclaimed property for a fee. Any email or mail notification following this pattern is likely a scam. Also, keep in mind that if you have a financial planner, he or she may be able to help you claim your money, too.
Arrive With the Appropriate Documentation and Proof of Your Identity
You may need to bring a death certificate or even a full probate court order if you’re trying to collect money from a deceased relative’s estate. You may also need to answer a series of questions pertaining to your financial history before money will be released. Sometimes, the number of hoops you need to jump through depends on the amount of unclaimed cash you’re trying to collect.
Finding unclaimed money in databases you’ve never heard of is far more difficult than pulling out some coins from under couch cushions, but the payoff may be worth the trouble.