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Consumer Watch: There may be money waiting for you to find

Sep. 29, 2011 - 02:49PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 29, 2011 - 02:49PM  |  
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Could there be forgotten money or other property out there that belongs to you?

Sniff around in a few places — it's easy. For military families, who frequently move from state to state, it's important to check for unclaimed property or property that may have been left to you as an heir.

A few examples include uncashed checks, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, travelers checks, stocks, mutual funds and contents of safe deposit boxes. You can also search for leftover retirement benefits, forgotten savings bonds and forgotten bank accounts.

Although some companies provide lawful services to help you obtain your property for a fee, be careful. Before you sign any contract, contact your state unclaimed property office for more information. Officials warn of many scams related to unclaimed property across the U.S. Besides, there's no need to pay someone to do these searches when you can do them for free.

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, about $33 billion is currently being held by state treasurers and other agencies for 117 million accounts. Unclaimed property laws have become broader and more frequently enforced over the past 15 years. State laws instruct companies and others to turn over this unknown or forgotten property to a state official who then tries to find the owner or the owner's heirs.

At www.unclaimed.org, NAUPA provides a free tool to search every state you've lived in. Click on the state, and it will take you to the official website of the state's program that actively seeks owners of lost and forgotten assets.

NAUPA also recommends checking the free www.missingmoney.com. Most states participate in that website, and you can search all of them at once. After you enter a name on the home page, you'll be routed to a search page. On the drop-down menu at the top, click on "Search all states and provinces."

Do a search just by last name and see whether it turns up any relatives. In most cases, claims can be made for an unlimited time, even by heirs.

Some other places to search:

https://www.unclaimedretirementbenefits.com/">National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Get free information about retirement benefits from a previous job. With the frequent moves of military families, it's a must for spouses. It's free.

• Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. See if you are owed any pension benefits from a plan that no longer exists because it was closed or taken over by http://www.pbgc.gov/">PBGC.

• Forgotten savings bonds. The http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm">U.S. Treasury's search tool.

• Old bank funds. Search for http://www2.fdic.gov/funds/">Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. information about forgotten funds in bank accounts or other property in failed banks.

Even if it's just a few bucks, claim what's yours!

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