How to find unclaimed money that may be owed to you

When a business or government office owes you money, those funds go to state-run unclaimed property offices. Here's where to look.

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By Emily Pandise

With more than 26 million people out of work in the past month, a lot of Americans are looking for any extra cash they can find right now. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to search for any unclaimed money that’s owed to you.

What does it mean to have unclaimed money? When a business or government office owes you money — for example, when you have credit at a store that closes, or you’re owed a utility deposit — that money eventually goes to state-run unclaimed property offices. The money goes unclaimed because no one tells you it’s there; that’s why you should periodically search for it. Here’s how to check if there’s "free" money you can put back in your pocket.

First, go to your state’s unclaimed property website to check if you’re owed funds. If you’ve moved around a lot, you can try sites like missingmoney.com or unclaimed.org, which may be able to search multiple state databases at once. The search uses your name and your city to check for any funds. Remember to try a maiden name or a middle initial if those apply to you.

There are several different places where you might be able to find more funds:

  • If you have an Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage, you may be eligible for a refund through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Take a look at the HUD website.
  • If you expected a tax refund and never received it, it may have been sent to the wrong address or bank account. Additionally, if you didn’t file your taxes but should have received money back, you can check the IRS website to claim your missing refund.
  • Still hanging on to some savings bonds you never cashed in? If you’re missing the paper copy, you can request a savings bond reissue here.
  • If your government-insured bank or credit union was liquidated, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or National Credit Union Administration will refund any deposits you had not claimed. For banks, search the FDIC; for credit unions, search the NCUA.

Claiming the money is straightforward. You just need to prove that the money is yours, and your state will cut you a check. Each state has its own rules about how to prove your identity and claim that money, so make sure you read any rules on the site.

You should be able to claim this money for free and on your own. If someone is asking you to pay a fee for it, proceed with caution. If you do need to go through a third-party service, make sure that you don’t pay upfront and don’t pay more than 10% to 20% in fees.