Finding unclaimed items enriches claimants a bit

May 25, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

Twenty-four county shoppers walked out of the Glen Burnie Mall Saturday a little richer than when they walked in.

The two dozen men and women discovered a total of $2,000 in a computer search for unclaimed funds or valuables held by the state comptroller's office.

The largest claim that turned up was $494, said Marvin A. Bond, spokesman for State Comptroller Louis Goldstein. The smallest was $59, and the oldest was an unclaimed 1979 Mass Transit Administration paycheck.

"Unclaimed money" comes from forgotten bank accounts, security deposits and insurance benefits, along with stocks and money from utilities companies. Most of the $2,000 discovered Saturday came from bank accounts.

The state's computer records list more than 160,000 forgotten accounts, worth $60 million.

Maryland law requires financial institutions, insurance companies, utilities and other corporations to report bank accounts, security deposits, wages, insurance benefits and the contents of safe deposit boxes that are unclaimed after five years.

The records extend back 25 years, to when the law went into effect, Mr. Bond said.

Last year, the comptroller's office returned $5.6 million in unclaimed funds to 10,345 individuals.

Saturday, representatives of the comptroller's office staffed a booth at the Glen Burnie Mall, where 248 visitors checked the records.

Residents who didn't have a chance to stop can still check the records by calling (410) 225-1700 in Baltimore.

"There is no time limit on claiming money that is rightfully yours," Mr. Goldstein said. "You or your legitimate heirs can claim the funds at any time."

Typically, the forgotten money was left in a banking account when someone switched banks, or was not discovered by descendants after a death. Sometimes, one spouse held the account without the partner's knowledge, Mr. Bond said.

Those who turned up Saturday were either curious, or had received a letter at some point from the government informing them of the money, he said.

The state makes other efforts to locate owners of unclaimed funds, such as matching computer files with Internal Revenue Service information to reach out-of-state owners.

The comptroller's office also sets up computers at the Maryland State Fair, local fairs and various trade shows and shopping malls.

The office advertises the most recently reported names of unclaimed property owners in local newspapers each spring and fall.

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