Got an ‘unclaimed cash’ letter? If it’s real, claim it yourself – for free

ID-100146335I ran into an interesting situation last week. Someone called me about a letter that sounded exactly like a money wiring scam. Turns out it wasn’t — but it was still pretty sleazy. The letter was from a company that said it had found $1,200 in unclaimed cash that belonged to the consumer which it would recover in exchange for a 10 percent cut. Or more. It was a bit vague about that.

Long story short: The money was real, but the consumer was able to get it without paying anyone. She just had to contact the State Comptroller’s office and ask for it. Turns out she closed a P.O. Box and forgot to give the bank a forwarding address, so they couldn’t find her and turned it over to the state as “lost.”

In the money wiring scam I expected, the crooks will say you won a prize or inherited something. Then they give you an official-looking check.  You deposit it in your account and wire money to someone to cover some “fee.” The check turns out to be counterfeit and you have to pay the bank back.

In this case what happened was, this company (one of many running the same scheme) looks for unclaimed money on state databases and sends out letters. If you don’t know how to look these things up for yourself, you might end up signing away money that is rightfully yours. Might be 10 percent, might be a lot more.

There are other unclaimed money scams out there that are even more dangerous, such as the one Watchyourbuck reported last November that was an obvious ID theft scheme.

BBB would like you to be cautious about unclaimed money schemes designed to part you from your hard-earned cash.

If you are interested in searching for unclaimed property BBB offers the following advice:

  • Ignore email notifications. State unclaimed property offices do not email unclaimed property owners. Some state offices will mail notices to an owner’s last known physical address. If you receive an email claiming you have unclaimed property, chances are it is a scam.
  • Don’t give out bank account information. While you might be asked for your social security number once you are on the secure state website to confirm your identity, you will never be asked for your bank account information. A check will be mailed to your home.
  • Avoid paying a fee. There is no charge associated with searching for your property or claiming your property with state agencies.
  • Be cautious of unknown callers. If someone calls stating you have unclaimed property owed to you, think twice and act smart. Especially if the callers use the name of an official entity, make certain that you go “off the call” and contact the official entity to confirm the information.
  • Search certified databases. There are many official sites to use when searching for your unclaimed property. Start your search with your state comptroller’s office. From there you can find trustworthy websites, such as missingmoney.com, to search for potential properties in your name. In Texas, visit ClaimItTexas.org.
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