How To Find Money You Didn’t Know You Had

I just did something really cool, and it netted me almost $1,000 of money I had no idea was mine but was just sitting there waiting for me.

Let me start by saying that I’m a financially responsible person and extremely frugal. My husband is nearly fanatical about checking bank and credit card statements and following up on anything that seems awry. So when I read that the government has a pool of money unclaimed by those who don’t know it exists? Well, my curiosity was piqued and I couldn’t help but look into it. 

Here’s how it works. At any given time, checks head their way to your mailbox. They could be rebates, insurance adjustments, refunds – virtually anything, and many people either never knew they were coming in the first place or completely forgot about them as they moved about their busy lives.

Sometimes those checks never make it to your mailbox. The address is off by a number, the mail carrier makes a mistake, the envelope slips through the cracks, another neighbor gets your mail and drops it in the trash. The possibilities for error are endless, really. In our case, we moved somewhat frequently, so anything delivered to our previous home and not forwarded properly was fair game to fall into the government pool of “unclaimed property.”

This is a real thing, to the tune of – get ready – $49 billion!! Yes, you heard me right. That’s how much money the government is holding that belongs to us, yet most of us know nothing about. In fact, most Americans have at least $100 sitting there just waiting to be claimed. 

Believe it or not, claiming it is one of the easiest government interactions you will have. Just go to www.usa.gov/unclaimed-money and click on the Find Unclaimed Money button. Enter the city and state where you live, and within seconds, you will get a response telling you that yes, you have unclaimed money, or sorry, no unclaimed money exists. Literally, it takes seconds to know.

If you have unclaimed money, your heart will flutter with excitement, as did mine. If your claim is under $100, enter a few more details and within 7-10 days, you’ll receive a check from the state. If it’s over, the state will send you an email with instructions for the information it requires to process the claim. Fill out the form, meet the requirements, and mail it in. A few weeks later, a hefty check will arrive in your mailbox.

The key is to check every state where you’ve ever lived, including states where you own properties. I found a “less than $100 unclaimed property” in Illinois, the last state I lived in before Texas. It was comprised of a refund from the Chicago Tribune for unused papers when I moved and a rebate from something I bought and completely forgot about. My much more substantial check is coming from Georgia, three houses ago. That one is a home insurance refund, again, probably from our move. For that one, I had to provide proof of residence and personal ID, along with a notarized one-page form. I spent about 15 minutes on it, well worth my time for the money it takes me two weeks to earn.

When I had my success with the site, my husband hopped on and found money in Georgia as well, so that check is also on its way.

There really is no way to lose here. It’s your money, and you’re entitled to it, and the government – for once – couldn’t make it easier. So get out there and claim your money! The only rule with “found money” is that you enjoy it, and I really hope you do.

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Rebecca Deurlein

REBECCA DEURLEIN IS A FREELANCE WRITER AND THE AUTHOR OF TEENAGERS 101: WHAT A TOP TEACHER WISHES YOU KNEW ABOUT HELPING YOUR KID SUCCEED (HARPER COLLINS). REBECCA WRITES FOR LOCAL AND NATIONAL MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS AND LOVES EVERY MINUTE OF LIVING IN SUGAR LAND, TX. FIND HER ON AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, HUFFINGTON POST, OR THROUGH HER OWN BLOG A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING TEENAGERS.