Why press your luck on lotto when you could potentially have $4 million of unclaimed funds sitting within the New York State Comptroller’s coffers? OK, chances are your personal claim won’t amount to that hefty a payout, but as outlets like lohud have frequently reminded, the Office of the Comptroller routinely collects unclaimed funds from dormant bank accounts, stocks, un-cashed dividends, and even unused gift cards, with a total of $14.5 billion in owed money (up from $12 billion in 2011-’12) waiting to be rightfully secured. And some of it might be yours.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), an organization aiming to strengthen unclaimed property administration, “unclaimed property” in this instance refers to an account in a financial institution that has seen no owner activity for one year or longer. However, after three years have passed with no claimants coming forward, a portion of that account goes towards state spending.
Although every U.S. state and territory has a similar program, you wouldn’t be alone in having never come across it before. As of this June, New York alone is bursting with more than 35 million unclaimed accounts, according to the Office of the Comptroller, and Westchester happens to lead the Hudson Valley region with an accumulated $244 million-plus owed from 455,594 accounts. Rockland, meanwhile, owes $50 million from 116,000 accounts; Putnam $12 million from 34,000 accounts; and Dutchess $36.3 million from more than 92,000 accounts.
The Comptroller’s Office database can show whether you as an individual or organization are owed as little as $20 dating back to 1985. (The majority of claims are for less than $100 and derived from bank accounts.) The burden of proof to collect can vary depending on where it’s coming from. For example, claims involving estates require a notarized signature and proof of connection with the account owner, while claims for deceased relatives require a death certificate. Those who’ve moved from one state to another in recent years would be well served to consult NAUPA’s Missing Money search engine, since companies are required by law to send lost funds to the state of the owner’s last known address.
There are typically no fees associated with reclamation, although NAUPA warns of outside business firms who offer to locate funds for a certain percentage, sometimes up to a quarter of what’s owed. Consumers should also be wary of even more nefarious, fraudulent letters claiming to come from NAUPA. The bottom line, says NAUPA’s Association Director David Milby, is, “You never should have to send a fee to claim your own money.”
Unfortunately, our own personal searches here at Westchester fell short of greener pastures, but that doesn’t mean starting your own isn’t worth a shot. After all, the largest personal account still unclaimed is for $2.6 million. And unlike a lottery ticket, you don’t have to pay upfront just to discover your good fortune.