State tries to rid itself of $15 million

March 26, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Maryland has more than $15 million to give away and it could be to you.

No, the money's not from a new lottery campaign or even tax refunds. The comptroller of the Treasury has launched a statewide search for 23,000 people who own unclaimed money and valuables left in banks and other institutions.

An alphabetized listing of those people and their last known address fills 24 pages in today's Sun and Evening Sun.

Marvin Bond, a spokesman for the state comptroller, said that, in most cases, the amount of money is between $50 and $200, but can run into thousands of dollars.

Under Maryland law, financial institutions and other companies are required to report bank accounts, contents of safe deposit boxes, wages, insurance benefits, stock dividends and other LTC funds to the comptroller's office if they are unclaimed for five years or more.

The 23,000 people in today's list are only those for whom the banks and others have been searching during the past year. The comptroller's office has records going back 30 years on more than 160,000 accounts worth $60 million.

The valuables collected by the state over the years range from a few dollars found in lost savings accounts to items stored in safe deposit boxes such as baby teeth and an original New York Herald announcing the death of Lincoln.

The state launches its search for the owners of lost valuables twice a year. In the fall, it advertises primarily for the holders of unclaimed insurance benefits.

The spring listing for the owners of bank accounts and other funds is usually larger than the fall list, but Mr. Bond said this year the number is several thousand more than usual. The increase might be attributed to stricter auditing procedures at the institutions, he said.

Accounts are handed over to the state for a variety of reasons. Some of the unclaimed money was lost when people died and their survivors did not know about the bank accounts. Some of the money was lost when small businesses or churches changed treasurers and the new officers weren't told about accounts. Sometimes, the money wasn't lost at all, but the owner didn't make any deposits or withdrawals from the account for five years, so the bank told the state the account was inactive.

Mr. Bond said yesterday that since the ads starting appearing in state newspapers Tuesday, the phones in the comptroller's office have been "ringing off the hook."

Persons wishing to claim lost accounts may get in touch with the comptroller's office, which will tell them where the money is. They can then go to the bank or other institution to claim the money.

If the valuables remain unclaimed after the advertisement, they are turned over to the state. Even then, there is no time limit on when owners may claim their money. Even if property is auctioned, the owners are entitled to receive the cash equivalent.

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