One of the calls your BBB® responded to this week was from a consumer who was contacted by a “professional locator” offering a suspicious-sounding service. The consumer was told that $780 was deposited in an escrow account in her name by the County Clerk. She was told by the locator that he could get the money for her for a $78.00 fee (10%).
Shortly after receiving the call, we happened to get an email from a BBB colleague at the Nashville, TN BBB regarding this very topic. Here is the information they shared.
Do you have unclaimed property? If so, how would you know? Is it worth it to pay a service to help you identify unclaimed property? Periodically, the Better Business Bureau receives calls from consumers who have been contacted by a “professional locator” who claims to have knowledge of unclaimed property belonging to a consumer.
The locator advises that there is money in an account that may belong to the consumer, and for a fee the consumer will be given instructions on how to claim it. In some cases, the locating company will offer to disclose the nature of the unclaimed funds for a fee equal to a percentage of the fees recovered. In either case, the consumer pays for the information that is available free of charge in every state in the country.
Unclaimed property describes accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity or account holder contact for one year or more. This can include savings or checking accounts, refunds, customer overpayments, contents of safe deposit boxes, etc.
To begin searching for lost property, check https://www.unclaimed.org, which is operated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). This site has official records of unclaimed property from every state and most U.S. territories, plus Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec in Canada. Check for property in every jurisdiction in which you have resided. The search is a free service.
According to NAUPA, there are many businesses (sometimes called finders or locators) that find legitimate lost property for owners and inform them how to obtain it for a fee, usually a percentage of the total (some states limit the fee to 10 percent). Sometimes, companies will hire these firms to find you before they turn the funds over to the state. Ultimately the finder will ask you to sign a contract.
The majority of firms that provide these services work within the law, but there are also some unclaimed property schemes around. Before signing any contract, BBB recommends caution. If you are unsure that the firm is reliable, contact your BBB or the unclaimed property office in your state for more information.
To prevent accumulating unclaimed property, NAUPA suggests the following tips:
- Deposit or cash all checks for dividends, wages, insurance settlements, etc. without delay.
- Respond to legitimate requests for confirmation of account balances and stock holder proxies.
- If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.
- Prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.
Consumers in our 18-county service area can find out if they are the owners of unclaimed property by contacting the following agencies:
Illinois – https://icash.illinoistreasurer.gov/ or 217.785.6998
Indiana – https://indianaunclaimed.gov/ or 866-IN-CLAIM (866.462.5246)
Kentucky – http://treasury.ky.gov/unclaimedproperty/pages/unclaimed-property-search.aspx or 502.564.4722
Getting back to the consumer call we received, we gave her the URL for the Indiana Unclaimed Property website. She checked and she did indeed have money coming. She had to fill out an application with the County Clerk’s office and will receive a check in four to six weeks. That money was hers and she did not have to pay any fee to claim it!
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.