2008-02-07 / Other News

State Might Have Your Money

Guest Column
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli

State Comptroller
Tom DiNapoli

We've all seen those sweepstakes telling us we may have already won $10,000 or a new car. Well, in New York we have $8 billion, and some of it may already be yours, and we're not putting you on.

Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed funds are turned over to my office. The money comes from a wide variety of places: dormant bank accounts, un-refunded utility deposits, forgotten stock certificates, unredeemed gift cards, life insurance policies never cashed in or tax refund checks that never found their way home. When the rightful owners don't claim their money, the law requires companies to turn the money over to my office to keep safe on your behalf.

My office is stepping up its efforts to inform the public that we're holding $8 billion of abandoned or unclaimed property in 22 million different accounts. We want to give that money back to its rightful owners.

We've been to dozens of fairs, conferences and other events statewide with our Unclaimed Funds booth, where people can check our computers to see if we're holding any of their unclaimed funds. If so, we help them fill out the necessary paperwork right there, on the spot.

Last year, we reunited $169 million with rightful owners, and this year we hope to have even better results. While we occasionally process claims for thousands of dollars, most claims are in the $50 to $100 range.

Of course, the best way to get your money is to never let it be abandoned in the first place. Here are a few tips:

•Keep your accounts active. More than half of unclaimed accounts are dormant savings accounts that have had no activity for five years. Make a small deposit or withdrawal every year.

•Cash all checks promptly for utility deposits, dividends, insurance premiums, wages and any other refunds you receive.

•Keep accurate financial records. Record all bank accounts, stock certificates, insurance policies, utility and rent deposits, and your safe deposit number.

•When you move, notify all financial institutions that you have accounts with.

•Tell a family member or trusted friend or advisor where you store your financial records.

We've made it as easy as we can for people to come forward and claim their property. You don't need to pay a fee or hire anyone to find out if you are owed unclaimed funds. The best way to find out if we're holding your abandoned property is by visiting my website at www.osc.state.ny.us . Just click on "Search for Unclaimed Funds" and type in your name. You can also call our toll-free number at 1-800-221-9311 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Unfortunately, there are scam artists who will use the cover of unclaimed funds to steal information from you. And some businesses will offer to find your money "for a fee." The best and safest way to look for unclaimed funds is to access the Office of the State Comptroller website and follow the instructions posted there.

Take a minute to find out if we're holding your money. The odds are better than those sweepstakes.

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