Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Missing Money

Who wants to play Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Missing Money? How did it disappear? What are clues I can follow to recover it?

Today’s post is going to make all of you Watsons just a little bit richer.

claimittexas
Start here in Texas for your missing money

Have you ever searched the online state databases for money that you’ve somehow lost track of, but didn’t know it?

You can try the Texas site, called claimittexas.org.

It turns out, when I checked again today, a close relative of mine has $45.17 waiting for him with the Texas Comptroller, whose office manages the unclaimed property site.

All he has to do is fill out some information online and upload proof of identity. I first sent him this link back in November. (Dude, like, what are you waiting for?)

The Texas Comptroller’s office estimates that one in four Texans has lost track of their money and had it turned over to the state for permanent safekeeping. All you have to do is search under your name, find a match, and claim it.

Apart from that one time on the Mexico City metro when those nice gentlemen  – probably coordinating with Moriarty – stealthily relieved me of my wallet, I feel like I keep an eagle eye and tight grip on my money. But there’s a surprisingly high number of ways we might have lost track of money that’s rightfully ours.

So how does this all happen? If a bank loses track of a customer for example – think returned mail, no forwarding address, no activity after a period of time like three years – then that bank has to turn over the account as “abandoned” to the state. If heirs never show up in probate court to claim their inheritance, or safe deposit boxes, or insurance payouts that they’re owed, then all that money might be abandoned to the state treasury. If a company issues stock but can’t track down its investors, the company could turn those shares over to the state. Refunds from corporations, unclaimed oil and gas royalties, payroll checks that go unclaimed – all of these get turned over to the state as abandoned after a certain period of time if the rightful owner can’t be found.

The great news, for those of us previously unaware of all this missing money, is that there’s no time limit – no statute of limitations – on how long the state will keep our money available for claiming. It’s never too late to search for, and claim, your money.

Diana Diaz, Unclaimed Property Outreach Specialist in the Texas Comptroller’s office, told me she’d personally heard of cases going back to the early 1980s. Later, she further searched the database in response to my question and added that her office actually has unclaimed money dating back as far as 1963. It’s enough to make all of us wish for that fairytale story where the long-lost godmother left us money, which we only discover in adulthood.

Diaz then told me the true-life fairytale in Texas of three brothers who didn’t know that mom owned Wal-Mart shares when she passed away. Somehow those shares went unclaimed and were turned over to the state under her name years later. By the time a friend of the brothers found the shares held at the Comptroller’s office, they were worth $1.3 million. They split the proceeds 3 ways. Rather life-enhancing, I’d say.

Some more great news: Every state has an office holding unclaimed funds on our behalf. Most states have a searchable database, and you could your own start with the aggregation site www.missingmoney.com. In addition to Mexico City, I’ve lived in New Mexico, New York, and Massachusetts, so every once in a while I check their sites.

missing_money
Missing Money link to all states

My wife and I moved from New York City to Texas back in 2009. In November 2017 I discovered on the New York State website   that she was owed $300 originally from Ticketmaster and $65 originally from Home Depot. We have no idea why. I’m guessing either some kind of class action lawsuit in which she was a beneficiary, or maybe she overpaid those companies more than 8 years ago? Who knows? Somewhere along the way over the past 8 years the mail stopped getting forwarded, and then eventually those two companies turned the money over to New York State. She filed the two claims, two checks for a total of $365 arrived in December and boom! Holiday presents paid for.

If you know anyone in Florida, you could try their website, managed by the Chief Financial Officer of that state. Another close family member of mine has an unclaimed share of Metlife stock there, dating back to the time when Metlife Inc converted from a mutually-owned company to a publicly-trade company, in 2000. I sent the link to my family member in November but it’s still unclaimed as of this writing. I guess some people – you know who you are – just don’t like money?

benedict_cumberbatch
Elementary, My Dear Watson

One complication of having an extremely common name is that it seems thousands of fellow Michael Taylors have scattered money all over the country into various state treasuries. Depending on the database you use, you may have to get clever with middle names and initials, or slog through many non-relevant search results.

This is something Benedict Cumberbatch would never have to do, were he to have his missing money turned over to the state. And not only because he plays Sherlock Holmes on the BBC television series. Fun fact: I just searched Benedict Cumberbatch in the missingmoney.com database and he is apparently owed money by the state of Louisiana. You’re welcome, Benny. Do you mind if I call you that?

All of you about to get a little richer upon claiming your missing money, including you Benny: Don’t forget to tip your favorite financial blogger.

 

 

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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