Unclaimed Money: Find and Claim It

The States are Holding Billions of It

Illustration of Edmond Dantes Discovering the Treasure of the Island of Monte Cristo
Illustration of Edmond Dantes Discovering the Treasure of the Island of Monte Cristo. Stefano Bianchetti / Getty Images

Have you ever moved without getting your utility deposit back, or forgotten about an old checking or savings account? That unclaimed money is still yours and you can get it from the state governments.

The states have made finding and recovering unclaimed property much easier with online unclaimed property searches and even online claim forms. This feature is designed to provide you with information about unclaimed (escheat) property and links to all available online state property recovery resources.

Remember that each state in which you have ever lived may be holding unclaimed money for you.

Can the Federal Government Find Unclaimed Money for Me?

No. No agency or employee of the U.S. Federal Government can or will help you recover unclaimed property.

"There is no government-wide, centralized information service or database from which information on unclaimed government assets may be obtained. Each individual Federal agency maintains its own records and would need to research and release that data on a case-by-case basis." - United States Treasury Department

Each state handles the reporting and collection of unclaimed property and each state has its own laws and methods for recovering unclaimed property.

But the States Can

All 50 states now have secure online unclaimed money and property search applications on their websites, along with information on how to claim and recover your loot. 

What is Unclaimed Property?

Unclaimed property can be any financial asset or sum of money that appears to have been abandoned by the owner.

Some typical types of unclaimed property include:

  • Utility deposits (very common), credit balances, store refunds
  • Uncashed dividend, payroll or cashier's checks
  • Stock certificates or accounts, bonds, mutual fund accounts
  • Life insurance policy proceeds
  • Undistributed wages
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Gift certificates
  • Traveler's Checks
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Royalty payments
  • Court payments or deposits

State laws require financial institutions, public utilities, and various other entities to report personal property considered abandoned or unclaimed. The account or property must have been inactive for some period of time specified by state law, and the whereabouts of the owner must be unknown.

You might have unclaimed property in any state where you or your relatives have ever lived or done business.

You Might Have Unclaimed Property If…

  • You have moved -- with or without -- leaving a forwarding address. Moving is the main source of abandoned utility deposits and bank account balances.
  • You have retired, been reassigned, or laid off from a job
  • You have not made a transaction on your checking or savings account for over three years
  • You have stopped payments on an insurance policy
  • You have an uncashed check made out to you more than 3 years ago
  • You regularly throw away your mail without reading it.
  • You have noticed that regular dividend, interest, or royalty checks have stopped coming
  • You have settled a deceased family member's estate

What About Paid Property Search Firms?

Many firms advertise that they will go out search for unclaimed property on your behalf.

Many of these firms are totally honest and offer good services. However, watch out for firms that have already found unclaimed property belonging to you and want to charge you to recover it. More often than not, if you can find it, and prove it's yours, you can claim it yourself.

Many states require search firms and heirfinders to be licensed or registered and impose legal limits on how large a percentage of the value of the claimed property they can charge.

Always check with the unclaimed property department within your state government before signing a contract with a property search firm.

What About US Savings Bonds?

Did you get a U.S. Savings Bond as a child? Have you forgotten about it? According the the U.S. Treasury Department, over 15,000 savings bonds and 25,000 interest payments a year are returned to the Treasury as undeliverable, mostly because the bond owners have forgotten about them and moved.

The good news is that you can use the Treasury's online "Treasury Hunt"  secure website to find and claim forgotten bonds and interest due on them