How to find lost money

In times of financial uncertainty, it is always helpful to find a new source of cash. An often unknown way to get some extra cash is to take advantage of potentially unclaimed funds that you may have accumulated over the years without even realizing it. Even better, this money can be found relatively easily and in many different places.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to unclaimed funds, but below, Select breaks down what you need to know about unclaimed funds, including how to find out if you have any.

What are unclaimed funds?

Unclaimed funds are any amount of money or assets owed by a government office, business, or other entity that you have not collected. You could have unclaimed money from a bankruptcy filing, a previous job, or even from paying taxes. Examples of unclaimed property include things like cash, checks, security deposits, money orders, and the contents of safe deposit boxes.

Typically, after you do not claim your funds, they enter what is known as a dormant period, which is the time from when a financial institution reports an unclaimed asset until the government decides that asset is abandoned. active.

In most states, the inactivity period lasts five years and it is important to claim your funds before that period expires. When this period expires, the state claims ownership of your property. From there, you will need to go through a process to claim your funds from your state.

Why should you care?

Unclaimed money that is rightfully yours can help you make critical progress toward your financial goals, like buying a home or other major purchase. The amount of unclaimed money you have may not always be a large amount, but in some cases, unclaimed funds can be life changing.

You may think you have no unclaimed funds or a minimum amount, but you could have considerable amounts of cash that you don’t even know about.

According to CNN, there are many cases of unclaimed pension fund money, which is important because it’s money you’d use for retirement. Someone once claimed $32 million from unclaimed stock sales. However, it is worth noting that not all cases of unclaimed money will be life-changing, but still, a little can go a long way.

How to find unclaimed funds

An easy way to find unclaimed money is to search by state; To do this, go to Select your state and enter information such as your first and last name. Or if you’re searching on your company name, you can enter your organization’s name. For a state tax refund check, you will need to contact your state’s department of revenue.

A common source of unclaimed money is through tax refunds. Let’s say you were eligible for a federal tax refund but didn’t file it; your refund will remain unclaimed. It’s a good idea to file a return if federal taxes were withheld from your wages or if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might owe you some money if your refund was not claimed or never given to you.

In some cases, even if you applied for a refund, you may not have received the tax refund check itself. These checks are mailed to your last known address, so if you moved without telling the IRS or the US Postal Service, your refund check may have been returned to the IRS. You can check the IRS Where’s My Refund page to access your refund if it wasn’t delivered. You’ll enter your social security number, marital status, and the exact total dollar amount you’re owed, and the site may ask you to change your address online.

You can also call the IRS to check on the status of your refund, but wait times are notoriously long, so you’ll want to skip the wait by using their automated phone system. To avoid this confusion and an undelivered refund, submit a Change of Address – Form 8822 to the IRS when you move. You must also submit a Change of Address to USPS.

Another way to find unclaimed funds is to see if your employer violated any employment laws because that would mean they owe you unpaid wages, and the Department of Labor (DOL) could have recovered them. If you think your employer owes you wages, search the DOL’s database of workers who have unclaimed money. The site records and retains unpaid wages for three years. You can also search for unclaimed pensions from companies that have closed or terminated a defined pension plan.

Old bank accounts and investments can also be a form of unclaimed funds. You can search for unclaimed money from failed banks through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). You can also find unclaimed funds from credit union bankruptcies. Alternatively, if you have unclaimed funds in a bank, you can check or, both of which are operated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Managers.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also lists cases in which a company or person owes money to investors. To collect potentially unclaimed money from savings bonds, go to to locate past-due savings bonds that have stopped earning interest and to learn how to replace a lost or destroyed savings bond.

Be sure to also look for unclaimed funds from a bankruptcy. You can do this by using the US Courts Unclaimed Funds Locator.

What to do with the funds you have claimed

The best way to use the cash from your unclaimed funds ultimately depends on your specific situation. If you don’t have an emergency fund, that newly claimed money is likely to be better used to start building that fund. On the other hand, if you are financially secure and already have a fully funded emergency fund and are paying off debt each month, it would be smart to put that new money into a high-yield savings account or invest it.

Cash checks that have been claimed can be deposited into a high-yield savings account. Select Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings as the best no-fee high-yield savings account. The SoFi Checking and Savings account is another notable one and offers a welcome bonus of up to $300. Be sure to check out Select’s full list of the best high-yield savings accounts.

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Bottom line

With so many potential sources of unclaimed funds, you may have a considerable amount of money waiting to be claimed. It is important to claim any money you find because that cash can be crucial in helping you achieve your financial goals. How you use those unclaimed funds depends on your individual situation, and there are many ways the money can come in handy.

Editor’s note: The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of Select’s editorial staff and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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