Thursday, March 1, 2012

Think Outside the Box When Looking for Unclaimed Property

The Denver Post had an article yesterday by Aaron LaPedis about "overlooked" sources of unclaimed funds.  Aside from the usual advice about checking the unclaimed property offices of the several states, the article also mentions other resources such as the IRS, U.S. Department of Treasury and the Veterans Administration.  The article also contains some tips from Mary Pitman, who wrote a book on claiming unclaimed property (see the article for details).

While much of the advice will not be new to those in the unclaimed property field, Ms. Pitman also alluded to one of the "secrets" of unclaimed property claiming when she said:  "if you don't search exactly the way it's listed, you'll never find the money."  While that principle seems simple enough, it is one that is often overlooked by those searching for unclaimed funds.  When looking for unclaimed funds, therefore, it is not enough to check under the name that should be listed on the check, insurance policy, CD, etc., but also those names that reasonably could be on the unclaimed item.

For example, if you have a multi-word company name that is often shortened to its initials or some other shortened name, make sure to check all of the derivations.  If, for instance, you work for a law firm called Bendini, Lambert & Locke, you should check not only that name, but "BL&L," "Bendini Lambert," "The Bendini Law Firm," etc.  Note, even if you are under strict orders from the marketing department to never use a shortened name ("We are the Amalgamated Bakery & Cookie Company, NOT ABC Co.") you should still check these names.  The point here is not what you call your company, but what name others use.  For individuals, this means checking under nicknames, former names, maiden names, etc.

Taking things a step further, you should also think about what others might have accidentally written on the unclaimed item.  For example, is your last name "Damen" but people are always spelling it "Damon"? (hat tip to Get edited. for the example).  Better check both.  And, you're probably in for more trouble if your company has the words "Collectible," "Immediate," "Maintenance," or "Jewelry" as these are among the 100 most misspelled words in the English language.

Happy Claiming!


  1. Thank you for mentioning this story, Mike. You bring up excellent points about some of the ways to search for a business and about misspellings of names.
    One of my favorite tips from my book is if you're looking up a deceased family member, where it asks for the last name enter:
    Estate of
    The Estate of
    Est of
    The Est of (You can also add a period after Est)
    In California alone this brings up more than 16,000 listings! In NY it's almost 4,000, Florida about 500. It works in varying degrees in each state. These are listings that will never be found unless you search the way they're listed. They are not listed under Last Name, First Name, although there may be additional listings in that manner.
    When you search this way do it initially without a name as there are many listings with only Estate of, followed by an address, city and state. Narrow it down by adding a first name only. Don't use the city to narrow it because if they don't have the address, you may miss the listing. Then do Estate of followed by the last name.
    With the insurance companies having to be more active in searching for deceased policy holders, I would expect to see listings like this increase. Folks should update their beneficiary contact information at least every couple of years.
    You have a great blog Mike and always have useful information on it.