Watch Out for Unclaimed Property Scams

Does your state have money waiting for you?

The letter seems to promise good news. It says the state is holding money that belongs to you, and all you have to do to claim it is send your personal information or pay a fee. Although it appears to be legitimate, the letter may be from fraudsters looking to steal your money or your identity.

Every state has an unclaimed property fund. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), in 2015 the states collected $7.763 billion in unclaimed property and they were able to return $3.235 billion to the rightful owners. What money goes into the unclaimed property funds? According to, these assets are from accounts that have been dormant for at least one year. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds, life insurance proceeds, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

There are companies that obtain information about the owners of funds held by the states and send letters offering to claim the funds for them for a percentage of the amount received. Although this is legal, it is not necessary to use these intermediaries, as consumers can recover their funds directly from the states. Some states charge a small administrative fee to return the property, but there is usually no charge.

The scammers, however, are sending mass mailings to people who may or may not have unclaimed funds in an effort to collect an upfront fee or simply get them to provide their personal identifying information so the scammers can steal the consumer’s identity. “These scams are just rampant,” said David Milby, director of NAUPA.

The best way to avoid getting scammed or paying unnecessary fees is to ignore these letters and do your own search to determine if you are owed money. Even if you haven’t received a letter from anyone, you can start at, a site that allows you to search the records of almost every state at once. There are, however, a few states that do not include their data on that site, so you can also find links to each state’s database at Be sure to check in states where you used to live and work, as well as your current state. And check under other names you may have used, such as a maiden name or business name. If you find that funds are being held in your name, you can file a claim to recover them.