You need not pay to recover unclaimed property

SCAM WATCH

April 20, 2008

It is that time of year when the Maryland comptroller's office issues its list of unclaimed property in local newspapers. And scam artists are hot on its trail.

This year, the list of 66,000 accounts worth more than $46 million first appeared in various newspapers April 3 and will continue to run through April 23. The list gives the property owner's name, address (if there is one), and a reference number for unclaimed property. People who believe they might be a match can call the Unit of Unclaimed Property at 410 -767-1700 or 800-782-7382. Claim forms can be requested over the phone or downloaded from a Web site, www.marylandtaxes.com.

In most cases, the comptroller's office uses newspaper advertising, among other tools, to search for and find owners of unclaimed funds by matching files with the Internal Revenue Service and state Motor Vehicle Administration records.

The government defines unclaimed property as any financial asset with no activity by its owner for an extended period of time. This includes unclaimed wages or commissions, savings and checking accounts, stock dividends, insurance proceeds, underlying shares, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, money orders and contents of safe-deposit boxes.

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland reminds everyone that this information is free to the public. If you receive a letter congratulating you on the discovery of unclaimed property, it may be true that you've got something coming to you, but the BBB advises that you should check it out yourself.

You should not pay advance fees to recover unclaimed property or pay someone to retrieve information on your unclaimed property, the BBB says. Should a company solicit you for fees, check that company's reliability report at www.bbb.org or contact the BBB via e-mail at info@greatermd. bbb.org.

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