How to Find Out If Someone Owes You Cash

Have you ever found money in the pocket of an old pair of jeans you had completely forgotten about? It’s always a nice feeling to find “lost” money, but there is a much bigger pocket full of money that you may be overlooking – your state’s unclaimed property list. Anytime a company owes you money and cannot contact you for whatever reason, the company cannot legally keep your money and is required to turn it over (also known as escheat) to the state as unclaimed. Laws vary by state, but the general rule is that companies must escheat assets inactive for 3 years.

The Most Common Forgotten Property

The most common types of property turned over to the state are earned interest on a closed savings account, rebate or refund check, dividends, stocks, and bonds; real estate and unused gift certificates are usually excluded. According to their websites, the State of California is currently in possession of more than $5.7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to approximately 11.6 million individuals and organizations; New York has $10.5 billion, and Texas has $2.2 billion. The good news is that it is easy to find and collect your money…

Collecting Your Money Is Easy

Every state has unclaimed property laws, and collecting your money is as easy as filling out a simple form. I know firsthand that especially in the banking sector, unclaimed property laws are strictly enforced; while I was working at the Federal Reserve as a Bank Examiner, we regularly checked bank records to ensure banks were escheating unclaimed property to the states in a timely manner. There are many unclaimed property scams so be careful of any unsolicited requests to help you claim your money for a fee.

There is no cost to claim and collect money escheated to the state. However, if your unclaimed property exceeds a given amount, which varies by state, you may be required to get your claim form notarized. Once you make your claim, most states also allow you to check the status of the claim. I recommend you search any state you have ever lived in for your unclaimed properties. Start your search here: and then click on your state to go directly to your state’s treasury and/or controller’s website. Always make sure the site you are visiting is an official government site with .gov or .us in their web address – you don’t want to get duped into scam sites trying to get your personal and financial information.

Remember, unclaimed property is escheated to the state when a company cannot contact you, so to minimize future unclaimed properties, always update your contact information with any company you do business with, especially your financial institutions. Most of the time, the value of escheated property is a few hundred dollars. These days, who couldn’t use a few hundred dollars? That may be enough for a full tank of gas.

About the author

Ara Oghoorian, CFA, CFP®

Ara Oghoorian, CFA, CFP® is the founder and president of ACap Asset Management, Inc, a financial advisory specializing in working with medical professionals. Ara has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to starting ACap, Ara worked for a wealth management firm in the Washington, DC area providing investment management, tax preparation/planning, financial planning, complex risk-management strategies, and financial advice to ultra high net worth individuals and institutional clients.

Ara worked overseas for the US Department of the Treasury as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance and Economy in the Republic of Armenia. He also conducted work in the Republic of Georgia and the Republic of Latvia. He spent nine years at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco auditing foreign and domestic banks and bank holding companies. He began his career at Wells Fargo Bank in Huntington Beach, CA.

Ara earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from San Francisco State University, is a Commissioned Bank Examiner through the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Ara also holds the Series 65 license.

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