Monday, January 27, 2014

Vermont Attorney General Warns of Facebook Unclaimed Property Scam

An article in the (Vermont) Valley News reports a warning from the Vermont Attorney General's Office concerning an unclaimed property scam making the rounds in the Green Mountain State (and perhaps elsewhere).  The scam apparently involves contacting the Facebook "friends" of a compromised account, informing them that they have unclaimed property, and providing a call-in number.  Individuals who contact the number are advised that they have unclaimed funds, and are asked to wire money to pay for taxes and fees.

Here are some tips to (try to) avoid scams relating to unclaimed property:
  • Don't Pay to Search -- States do not charge a fee for allowing you to search for unclaimed funds, or in most cases, even to collect unclaimed funds.
  • Don't Trust Links -- If you receive an email purporting to be from your state unclaimed property office with a link, go to the site directly.  A link to every states' unclaimed property office can be found on the website of the Nat'l Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
  • Don't Trust Phone Numbers -- Similarly, don't call the number provided to you in an unsolicited email or voicemail.  Look up (using NAUPA or some other source) the phone number for your state unclaimed property office yourself, and call them directly.  Some scams seek to trick victims into calling an international phone number and incurring high fees for those calls.
  • Don't Provide Financial Information -- You do not have to provide any financial or bank account information to perform a search or to learn if a state is holding unclaimed funds on your behalf. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Lost + Found: UPPO Annual Conference & Unclaimed Funds in Cleveland

UPPO Annual Conference Registration Open -- The Unclaimed Property Professionals' Organization is the primary group representing the interests of holders of unclaimed property.  One of UPPO's most valuable resources is its annual conference, a 3 day event with educational seminars, networking events, and discussions with state administrators and other experts.  This year's conference will be held from March 23-26 in Grapevine (Dallas) Texas.  Registration information can be found here.

Cuyahoga County Releases List of Unclaimed Funds -- State governments are not the only entities that hold unclaimed funds.  As reported by an internal audit of the Cuyahoga County's Clerk of Courts office identified some $7 million in unclaimed funds owed to residents.  A searchable list is available at the County Clerk's website.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nice Problem to Have: South Dakota Governor and Legislature Discussing How to Spend "Extra" $35 Million in Unclaimed Property

The Rapid City (SD) Journal recently published a story concerning a tug of war between the South Dakota Governor and State Legislature concerning how to use an "unexpectedly large" collection of unclaimed property.  According to the article, the state collected almost $70 million in unclaimed property during the past year - more than $33 million more than expected.  The windfall is apparently due to the state's recent decision to shorten the dormancy period for most property types from 5 years to 3 years and the movement into South Dakota of certain companies and financial institutions.  As we previously noted, that same legislation also reduced the number of published notices to owners from two to one, and increased the dollar threshold for publishing such items from $50 to $250.  The shortening of dormancy periods and increase in notice threshold are becoming regular tricks for states to (temporarily and artificially) increase state revenue.

According to the Journal article by Bob Mercer, the legislature wants to use the extra cash for economic development, while the governor wants to use the money to pay off some existing state debt.  As is often the case, neither side is suggesting that the funds be used to increase outreach efforts to get the money back to its rightful owners.