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Scam Alert

A Trunk Full of Cash

If you believe the money is for you, prepare to get fleeced

How the real unclaimed property system works

By law, financial institutions and companies holding unclaimed funds and property — forgotten bank accounts, unrealized inheritances or utility deposits, for example — must try to find the people the assets belong to. If they succeed, they typically send out notifications by U.S. mail.

When they can't find the people — often because of an address change — the money is turned over to the treasury of the state in which the account owner last resided.

NAUPA doesn't directly reunite people with missing money. Its members — state treasurers and other officials — do.

But they don't use email to get in touch. They wouldn't have your email address, but scammers can buy it on an underground list.

Today about $33 billion waits in state treasuries and other agencies for its rightful owners.

It's possible some of it belongs to you (be advised: If this money exists at all, it may be very small amounts). To find out, you can get in touch with your state treasury office, directly or via NAUPA, whose homepage has a database of state offices. You can also use MissingMoney.com, a NAUPA-endorsed group that helps in the search for unclaimed loot.

Also of interest: Getting free ID theft protection. >>

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

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