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Scam Alert

Track Down Unclaimed Property

Find money you didn't know you had without paying a fee to a con artist

Recently, bogus NAUPA officials were proven to be identity thieves trying to get personal information, while simultaneously running an overseas phone scam.

The legitimate finders make no false claims and contact rightfully owed property owners whom they identify through state freedom of information acts. In some states, these companies are restricted to commissions of no more than 10 percent (but may charge more anyway). In any case, they are usually unnecessary because it's always free — and can take only minutes.

Here are other tips on how to steer clear of unclaimed property cons.

  • By law, the financial institutions and companies that owe the lost loot are supposed to try to find the owners. So if you get a notice from a bank, insurer or other company claiming as such, look up the contacts of its corporate headquarters yourself (don't rely on what you're given in the notice) and call to ensure that the claim is legitimate.
  • When companies can't reach the owners of the unclaimed property, the money is turned over to the state government in which the account owner last resided. Some state offices will then mail notices to the owner's last known address. Others simply wait for you to check. But they'll never use email to contact you and it's unlikely they will call. So unless you get a mailed notification — which you should still authenticate by contacting that state treasurer or comptroller — assume it's a scam.
  • If you have unclaimed money, you'll be asked for your Social Security number on the official state agency website. But you won't be asked for bank or credit card information. No personal information should ever be given unless you initiate contact with the state agency or use its website.
  • State treasurers and comptrollers do not outsource the job of tracking down owners of unclaimed money and property. So don't believe people who claim they're working "on behalf" of the state agency or the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Also of interest: Join the AARP Savings Challenge.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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