How to Find Money You Didn’t Know You Had

Forgotten stocks, unclaimed wages and more are waiting around to be found. Here's how to discover if something like that belongs to you.

You’ve found forgotten friends, images and even episodes of TV shows through free online searches. Now, you can find lost money in much the same way.

In many cases, the process is as easy as typing in your name and address at a website. You don’t need to register with a service, pay a fee or give sensitive personal information to strangers. Technology does all of the work for you.

Here’s where to look for your lost money:

1. Unclaimed money from state governments

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MissingMoney.com is a database of unclaimed governmental property records from U.S. states and Canadian provinces. According to the site, these records include:

  • Bank accounts and safe-deposit box contents
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds and dividends
  • Uncashed checks and wages
  • Insurance policies, CDs and trust funds
  • Utility deposits and escrow accounts

2. Old stocks and bonds

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If you hold an old stock or bond certificate, it may still have value even if it no longer trades under the name printed on the certificate — although claiming the value is not quite as easy as a click of the button. As the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) explains:

The company may have merged with another company or simply changed its name. Keep in mind that due to corporate reorganizations (such as splits, mergers, or reverse mergers), the current share price may not be useful in determining the certificate’s value, if any. If the name of the transfer agent is printed on the certificate, contacting the transfer agent is the easiest way to learn about the certificate.

If you don’t find the transfer agent, the SEC website offers other avenues you can check to follow up on your claim.

3. Unclaimed bank funds

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The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, insures many accounts held in banks and savings and loans. So, if your financial institution goes under, the FDIC is responsible for payment of insured deposits and the liquidation of the remaining assets.

The FDIC also has a tool that can help you find if your bank is insured.

4. Savings bonds and Treasury funds

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury holds billions of matured, unredeemed savings bonds. Wonder if any of those are yours? Unfortunately, finding out requires you to fill out a form. Stop by the federal government’s TreasuryDirect website to do so.

5. Unclaimed pension funds

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This Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is the U.S. government agency that insures retirement benefits that are promised to employees in case of a pension failure.

If you worked for a company that offered retirement benefits but then went out of business, check the website to is see whether the PBGC is the “trustee” responsible for paying your benefits.

6. Unclaimed tax refunds

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There are millions of dollars in unclaimed tax refunds just waiting for their rightful recipients.

Wonder how to find out if you’re owned federal or state tax money? Easy — just go to USA.gov, a government information and services website.

Skip the middleman

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Some people find cash when they are notified by self-described “claim recovery services.” The downside is that such firms charge fees for recovering the money, a task that can easily be completed by the recipients.

Getting your lost money is easy, so claim it and pay yourself as soon as possible.

Do you think you might have some unclaimed treasures out there? Check it out, and share what you find with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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