Americans are currently missing out on $58 billion owed to them, and some are getting what’s rightfully theirs.
Just this year, Utah distributed record-breaking quantities of cash, $29.3 million, to its residents. And Virginia broke its own record this year by returning $87.1 million. With all this cash floating around, you’ve probably got one question: Does any of it belong to you?
Finding out is easier than you might think. Here’s how to track down the funds you’re legitimately owed, along with details on how to file your claim.
HOW DOES MONEY GO MISSING?
Your money is often tied up in many places, which makes it easy to lose track of a portion of your assets at some point in your life. In the U.S., people sometimes leave behind money that’s held in savings and checking accounts, insurance payouts, inherited assets, uncollected wages, refunds owed, stock holdings, security deposits — really the whole gamut of financial instruments.
HOW TO FIND YOUR MISSING MONEY
If you suspect you’re missing some cash or assets, it’s on you to track it all down. Here’s where to start your search:
State databases: Your home state keeps records on several types of stranded assets, so start your hunt there. Run a search at MissingMoney.com, a national database for lost cash that’s linked to most states’ records.
To access state-level data, head to Unclaimed.org, a site maintained by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
Savings and checking accounts: If you’ve ever switched banks, it’s possible you’ve left money behind in your old savings or checking account. To find out, contact your former financial institution, but if you’re having trouble tracking it down be sure to research whether the business has closed or been acquired.
Wages: Missing some money from an old paycheck? Talk with your employer to claim your wages. If your employer couldn’t locate you to pay you, check with the U.S. Department of Labor and use their WOW Search (Workers Owed Wages) to find employers and see what outstanding pay you’re owed.
Taxes: Overpaid your taxes or had too much withheld? If you never got your refund from Uncle Sam, check with the IRS regarding its status. If you didn’t file federal taxes for the year you overpaid, grab a copy of the tax filing form for that year, file your taxes (with no penalty), and claim your money.
Owed money by the state? Contact your state’s taxation division to learn what steps you’ll need to take to claim your tax refund.
Retirement funds: When you change jobs, you may have left behind a 401(k) or pension plan you had with your former company. To retrieve abandoned funds, reach out to your old employer directly, or contact the financial institution that managed the funds (if you know who that was).
If it’s been a while since you left that job, your retirement funds may have found their way to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Use the PBGC’s online tool if you’re owed pension or 401(k) money. Or check with the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits to track down your old 401(k) assets.
Investments: Did you invest in a company that was subjected to SEC enforcement actions for bad business practices? You may be owed compensation for your damages. Search the SEC’s list of claims to see if you’re eligible.
U.S. savings bonds: Remember that savings bond your grandma gave you when you were a kid — the one you were supposed to hold on to for 30 years and then cash out? Maybe, like plenty of other Americans, you misplaced it over the years. If that’s you, fill out this form to claim the cash you’re due.
Life insurance: If you own a life insurance policy or are the beneficiary of one, you may be due a payment from the carrier. Check with the insurer directly, or search this database of unclaimed payments (please note there is a search fee).
If you’re associated with a VA life insurance policy, contact the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to see if you’re owed a payout.
FHA mortgage: Have you ever had an FHA-insured mortgage loan? A refund may be waiting for you. Check with HUD to see if you qualify.
Class action lawsuit: If a product or business you used was hit with a class action lawsuit, you might be eligible to collect a settlement. Search the Consumer Action Class Action database. Look for suits that apply to you, and follow the directions to claim the payment you’re owed.
HOW TO CLAIM YOUR MISSING MONEY
Getting back your misplaced money depends largely on where it’s currently sitting. Your state or the organization often have specific processes in place regarding financial claims.
At a minimum, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity — usually a driver’s license will do — in order to collect your money or property. You may also need to show a valid Social Security card. If you’re retrieving money linked to a piece of property, you may be asked to verify that you owned or lived at that location.
When filing your claim, follow the rules of the process carefully. In some cases, you’ll use an online portal to submit your request. In others, you’ll fill out and mail a paper form with supporting documentation. (Some paper claims may require you to get your signature notarized before submitting.)
Overwhelmed? Consider working with a financial advisor, tax professional, or attorney for complex claims or claims involving significant sums. You’ll want to be clear on the financial consequences and your legal rights when pursuing your hard-earned cash.