Every year, more than $ 3 billion in missing money is returned to Americans who have lost track of their bank accounts, investments, or inheritance.
SAINT PAUL, Minn – People lose things all the time, a winter glove, a wallet, a phone and even money, yes money.
1 in 10 Americans have unclaimed money, from missing bank accounts and paychecks, or money they never knew they had.
Billions of dollars a year are literally disappearing in the United States, and finding it is as easy as searching for your name online.
Just go to MissingMoney.com and enter your name.
And if you are missing the money, it will appear and the website will tell you how to claim it.
Peter Brickwedde runs the program here in Minnesota.
He is Assistant Commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
“Every state in the country has an unclaimed property program,” Brickwedde said.
“Here in Minnesota, we return an average of $ 35 million to $ 40 million a year to the people of Minnesota.”
Nationally, more than $ 3 billion a year is returned to US residents.
This money can come from a variety of sources, from bank accounts, security deposits, or even unclaimed paychecks that people have lost track of.
Brickwedde says companies are legally required to keep this money.
First, the business must make a concerted effort to raise the missing money with its owner.
If the business is unable to locate the owner, then the business is legally required to hold the money for a few years.
Brickwedde says the length of time depends on the type of business that holds the money and the type of account the money comes from.
“Usually it’s a three to seven year period,” says Brickwedde.
Once this period is over, companies are then required to send this money to the state in which they operate.
Here in Minnesota, the Department of Commerce is the government entity that keeps track of this money, and the department must hold this money indefinitely, or until the owner comes and claims it.
Brickwedde says this whole process is happening more than you might think, in fact, it has happened to him.
“I had a check for $ 24.25 from a former employer that I didn’t know,” Brickwedde says.
“And I didn’t know I had it until I started working here.”
$ 24.25 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but sometimes people find millions.
“We have had claims of over a million dollars,” Brickwedde said.
These million dollar discoveries are quite rare, but most of the time this money comes from old life insurance policies, investments, businesses bought and sold, or even gold coins that someone had hidden it in an old safe in a bank.
If this all sounds crazy, well, don’t worry, even Brickwedde Commerce Department Commissioner Grace Arnold didn’t know it was a thing until about two years ago.
“I’ll say I didn’t know what unclaimed property was until I joined the Commerce Department,” Arnold laughs.
When she learned of the existence of an unclaimed property, Arnold says she immediately searched the online database for her name.
“No, I didn’t have one,” said Arnold. “I had an account which I think is my cousin’s.”
Brickwedde says a lot of this unclaimed money happens when people move to a new city or state.
“When you change your address or phone number, it can be difficult for businesses to find and track people down,” says Brickwedde.
“And when people move into a new home, it’s easy to forget about a bank account or some other account you might have money in.”
And sometimes that unclaimed money spans generations.
This often happens when grandparents or great-grandparents start a business, make an investment, or put a relative’s name on a life insurance policy.
If the company they opened the account with can’t locate the original owner’s next of kin, that money can sit in a Minnesota Department of Commerce database for decades until someone come and claim it.
“It’s exciting. It’s something you weren’t necessarily expecting, and we want to help people get their money back,” said Brickwedde.
Brickwedde says most of the time they can get their money back in under 72 hours, but if it’s a lot of money, or something complicated like an inheritance, it can take several months.
“It’s worth checking more than once, even if you claim something, it’s worth coming back six months or a year later and checking again because there might be something else,” says Brickwedde.
Here in Minnesota, you can also search for your name using the Department of Commerce website.