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Unclaimed Property: What It Is and How to Claim Yours

Have you ever moved and forgotten to update your mailing address with a company you had an account with? Or perhaps you inherited property from a relative and didn't realize they had unclaimed funds or assets? In both cases, you may have unclaimed property waiting for you.

Unclaimed property refers to any financial asset that has been abandoned by its owner for an extended period of time, typically between one and five years, and is then turned over to the state's unclaimed property division. This can include bank accounts, stocks, insurance policies, safe deposit box contents, and more.

Each state has its own unclaimed property laws and procedures, but the process generally involves the state holding the property until the rightful owner or their heirs come forward to claim it. In some cases, the state may attempt to locate the owner through outreach efforts, such as mailings or advertising.

Reasons Why People Have Unclaimed Property

There are several reasons why people may have unclaimed property. Here are a few of the most common reasons:

  1. Forgetting about accounts: One of the most common reasons for unclaimed property is simply forgetting about old bank accounts, retirement accounts, or insurance policies. If you move or change jobs, for example, you may forget to update your contact information and miss important notifications about your accounts.
  2. Lost or undelivered mail: Sometimes, notifications about unclaimed property are sent by mail and get lost or undelivered. This can happen if you move or if there are errors in your address on file.
  3. Inheritance: In some cases, people may inherit property or money from a relative but not realize it. If the relative did not leave clear instructions or the heirs are difficult to locate, the property may go unclaimed.
  4. Name changes or errors: If you change your name due to marriage or divorce, for example, your accounts or property may not be properly linked to your new name. Similarly, if there are errors in your name or Social Security number on file, you may not be able to claim your property.
  5. Company closures or mergers: If a company goes out of business or merges with another company, your accounts or property may be transferred or held in a different name or location. This can make it difficult to locate and claim your property.

Regardless of the reason for unclaimed property, it's important to periodically check for any property that may belong to you. By doing so, you can avoid losing track of your assets and ensure that you receive any money or property that is rightfully yours.

Scams You Should Be Aware of

Unfortunately, scammers sometimes use the existence of unclaimed property as a way to defraud people out of their money or personal information. There are a few common scams related to unclaimed property that you should be aware of:

  • Impostor scams: In this type of scam, someone poses as a representative of a government agency or other organization that deals with unclaimed property. They may contact you by phone, email, or social media and ask for personal information or money in exchange for helping you claim your property. These scammers often use high-pressure tactics and threaten legal action to scare their victims into paying up.
  • Phishing scams: Another type of scam involves fraudulent emails or websites that mimic the look and feel of legitimate unclaimed property sites. These emails or sites may ask you to provide personal information or click on a link that downloads malware onto your computer.
  • Inheritance scams: In this type of scam, someone contacts you claiming to be the representative of a deceased relative who has left you a large sum of money or property. They may ask for an upfront payment or personal information to "process" the inheritance, but in reality, there is no inheritance and the scammer is simply trying to steal from you.

To avoid falling victim to these or other unclaimed property scams, it's important to be vigilant and cautious. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don't give out personal information: Never give out your Social Security number, bank account information, or other sensitive information to someone you don't know and trust.
  2. Verify the source: If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call claiming to be from a government agency or other organization, verify their identity by checking the official website or contacting the agency directly.
  3. Be wary of high-pressure tactics: Scammers often use scare tactics to get their victims to pay up. If someone is pressuring you to act quickly or threatening legal action, it's probably a scam.
  4. Research the company: If you're considering working with a company that claims to help you recover unclaimed property, do your research first. Check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau and read reviews from other customers.

By staying vigilant and following these tips, you can protect yourself from unclaimed property scams and safely recover any property that belongs to you.

The Requirement to Claim

The requirements to claim can vary depending on the state or jurisdiction where the property is held, but there are some common requirements that typically apply:

  1. Proof of identity: To claim unclaimed property, you will usually need to provide identification documents such as a driver's license, passport, or state ID.
  2. Proof of ownership: You will also need to provide documentation that proves you are the rightful owner of the property. This can include bank statements, stock certificates, insurance policies, or other relevant documents.
  3. Claim form: Most states require you to fill out a claim form to request the return of your unclaimed property. This form may be available online or can be requested from the state's unclaimed property division.
  4. Waiting period: In some cases, there may be a waiting period before you can claim your unclaimed property. This waiting period allows time for any potential legal challenges to be resolved.
  5. Fees: Some states may charge fees for processing your claim or for providing additional documentation related to your property. It's important to check with your state's unclaimed property division to understand any applicable fees.

In general, the process of claiming is straightforward and can usually be completed online or through the mail. By providing the necessary documentation and following the appropriate procedures, you can recover your property and put it to use for your financial needs.

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