Unclaimed money may await your inquiry

Your Money

January 04, 2004|By Ilyce Glink | Ilyce Glink,Tribune Media Services

Billions of dollars in unclaimed funds is sitting in state treasuries around the country, and some of it might belong to you.

The odds that someone, somewhere owes you money are a whole lot better than the odds of winning the lottery. An estimated $22 billion is in state treasuries, waiting to be claimed.

What's there? Most everything, including inactive bank accounts, forgotten paychecks, lost inheritances, unused balances on prepaid phone cards, gift certificates, health insurance refund checks and stocks in companies that have been absorbed or purchased by other companies.

Start your search for unclaimed funds at your state treasurer's Web site, then search the sites of other states where you or family members have lived. Two sites allow you to make national searches free - www.missingmoney.com and www.unclaimed.org. At www.hud.gov, you can find out if you're owed a refund on your current or former FHA home loan. At www.irs.gov, you can learn how to claim your missing tax refund check or other IRS refunds you may be owed.

If you get an e-mail or letter from an organization claiming to have located missing money or unclaimed assets in your name, don't assume it's a scam. It's a clue to start looking through the above-named Web sites yourself.

If that fails, you can try one of the private searchers. They'll offer to search for a fee that ranges from 20 percent to 50 percent of whatever they find.

As long as you don't have to put up the cash upfront, it might be worth it to see what they can find.

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