Category: reunification efforts

Colorado State Auditor Issues Report Critical of State Unclaimed Property Division

State Watchdog Finds Claim Processing and Other Deficiencies

The Colorado Office of the State Auditor recently issued a Report reviewing the performance of the Colorado State Department of Treasury, Division of Unclaimed Property. For those who don’t want to read the full report, a summary of the key findings can be found here. The Auditor expresses the concern that the Division “is not fully meeting its core responsibility under the Unclaimed Property Act to reunite citizens with lost or forgotten property.” As support for that conclusion, the Auditor notes the following:

  • The Division has not mailed notification letters to the owners of unclaimed property since March 2005 (representing over 1.5 million notifications that have not been issued);
  • The Court failed to process claims within 90 days (as required by statute) in nearly half of cases, with at least one claim taking more than a year and a half to process;
  • More than half of the claims reviewed by the State Auditor, were “identified as duplicate, incomplete, inaccurate, or questionable that did not represent valid claims.”

The Auditor’s recommendations to the Division are also notable in that most of them amount to suggestions that the Division simply comply with the applicable laws already in force relating to owner notice, claims processing, and claims payment. In light of the Report, owners of unclaimed property have some reason to be hopeful that the Division’s claim processing performance will improve.

It’s the Big White Building With the Ionic Columns and the Statue of Alexander Hamilton . . .

An Exercise in Finding the Owners of Unclaimed Property

One of the theoretical policy justifications for state unclaimed property laws is that the states will be conscientious about finding missing owners and reuniting them with their property. Indeed, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers) the “purpose of unclaimed property laws is to protect consumers by ensuring money owed to them is returned to them, rather than remaining permanently with financial institutions, business associations, governments, and other entities.”

Given that premise, the identities of “lost” owners with property being held by the state never cease to amaze. Property is not just held for those truly “lost,” or famously reclusive authors, or politicians too busy to open mail, or those off in a galaxy far, far away. Some owners of unclaimed property are . . . ahem, presumably easier to find. As we pause the week to celebrate the 243rd birthday of the United States of America, note that California, New York, Illinois, Texas, Washington, D.C., and no doubt others are all holding “abandoned” or “unclaimed” property for the United States of America, United States Government and/or United States Treasury (and probably hundreds of other federal agencies).

While Washington D.C. might get a pass here because of the whole “Taxation Without Representation” thing, for the other jurisdictions searching in vain for the United States Treasury: try the big white building in Washington, D.C. with the ionic columns and the statues of Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin . . . or, you know, the back of the $10 bill

Happy Fourth Everyone!

Illinois State Treasurer Announces “Money Match” Reunification Program

The office of the Illinois State Treasurer, Michael Frerichs, recently announced a new program called “Money Match” which is intended to reunite more Illinois residents with their unclaimed funds.  Under the new program, the state will send written notification to all apparent owners of property held by the state where:

  • the value of the property is $2,000 or less;
  • the property is not either tangible (i.e., physical) property or securities;
  • the last-known address for the person is verified by records from the state Department of Revenue which are less than 12 months old; and
  • the Treasury department has “evidence sufficient to establish” that the person appearing in the Department of Revenue records is the owner.

This program was developed pursuant to legislation that was adopted as part of last year’s amendments to the state unclaimed property laws.  The State Treasury estimates that it will be sending 63,000 such notification letters this month.  Once the recipient verifies that his/her address is correct, the state will issue a check for the proceeds (without the need to complete the paperwork and processes generally needed for the recovery of property).  Unclaimed property owner advocates have long argued that states can and should do more with the information at their disposal to reunite owners with their missing property.  The Money Match program is a good step forward in that regard.

While the program’s affirmative notification efforts are certainly laudable, one should always be cautious when receiving correspondence out of the blue (whether by regular mail or by e-mail) concerning unclaimed property.  If the correspondence requires you to disclose personal financial information or pay a “search” or “recovery” fee, it likely is not genuine. When looking for or claiming abandoned property, keep the following tips in mind:

  • 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, don’t trust the link.  Instead, 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 Lost + Found: States Release Unclaimed Property Lists, Georgia Critiqued

Massachusetts Releases Unclaimed Property List . . .  — Massachusetts State Treasurer Steven Grossman recently announced the release of the Bay State’s most recent list of unclaimed properties.  According to the press release, the list contains 45,000 new properties in excess of $100 million collected by the Department during the last six months.  The new list also includes some $20 million in unclaimed life insurance policies discovered during recent audits.

. . . and Nebraska Too — According to an article in the Lincoln Journal Star the Nebraska State Treasury is preparing to publish the names of an additional 35,000 unclaimed property owners in Husker State newspapers during March and April.

CBS46 Atlanta:  Georgia Not Doing Enough to Reunite Owners With Funds — We’ve spent a fair amount of time recently addressing state efforts to reunite owners with their property.  According to a series of special reports by the local CBS affiliate, Georgia is not doing enough to make outreach efforts to owners.  According to the article, the state doesn’t publish owner names, hasn’t issued a press release in years, and doesn’t use social media.  The whole series of articles is well worth a read.

 

West Virginia Adds More Names to Unclaimed Property Website

The Office of the West Virginia State Treasurer has announced recent policy changes that increase the amount of unclaimed property appearing on the state’s website (and, thus, available for online searches).  According to the Treasury’s press release, the threshold for listing property on the website has been reduced from $50 to $25.  The same release notes that the department is soon to release an additional 13,000 items that are being held by the state for West Virginia residents.  Kudos to the Mountaineer State for making efforts to reunite more owners with their property.

Lost + Found: More Reclaim Records, Nebraska Outreach, Missouri Warnings

More States Announce Owner Reclaim Records — Recently, we noted New York’s and Missouri’s announcements that they returned a record amount of property to rightful owners during the most recent fiscal year.  This week brings additional notices from Louisiana and Texas touting record returns.  Congrats to all.

Nebraska Announces Outreach Events — Speaking of owner reunification, the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office has announced a series of events all across the state where an “unclaimed property specialist” will be available to help citizens look for their unclaimed property.  Treasury officials will
be attending the Nebraska State Fair, Harvest Husker Days, and other places.  A schedule of outreach events can be found here.

Missouri Warns of Unclaimed Property Scam — According to a story by CBS affiliate KOAM7, Missouri State Treasurer is warning citizens about an unclaimed property scam being conducted by someone posing as an auditor from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.  While NAUPA is a real entity, it neither conducts unclaimed property audits on states’ behalf, nor is it responsible for refunding money to owners (that task is undertaken by the individual states themselves).  We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again:  if you get a communication about unclaimed property from someone posing as a state employee or representative, you should contact the state directly – using contact information available on the state’s official website, not contact information provided in an unsolicited letter

Lost + Found: Records in New York and Missouri, Oregon Holder Seminar

New York Sets Unclaimed Property Reunification Record . . .  — According to an article in the Auburn Citizen, the New York State Office of Unclaimed Funds returned a record $347 million in unclaimed property during fiscal year 2012-13.  Lest anyone think that the job at OUF is complete, the same article notes that New York still has $12.5 billion in funds waiting to be claimed.

. . . As Does Missouri (Again) — Missouri State Treasurer (and Escheatable guest) Clint Zweifel recently announced that his office also broke the state reunification record by returning more than $39 million in the past year.  The record wasn’t very old – it was broken by the State Treasury last year.

Oregon Holding Holder Education Seminars — All summer, the Oregon Department of State Lands will be hosting holder education seminars for reporters of unclaimed property.  According to the DSL’s website, the half-day seminars will include an overview of the law, determining when and how to report unclaimed property, how to conduct due diligence, and more.  A complete schedule of events is available at the DSL’s website.

Lost & Found: Connecticut Records, UP Official Sentenced, Politics (but not really)

Connecticut Sets Unclaimed Property Record:  Add Connecticut to the list of states that have set unclaimed property collection or reunification records this year.  According to the Hartford Business Journal, the Nutmeg State returned more than $83.5 million to rightful owners this year, an increase of $30 million over last year.  A large part of the record came from a single claim for $32.8 million — the largest claim in state history — relating to stock held by the state for a single individual.

Former Oklahoma Unclaimed Property Auditor Sentenced:  A few months ago, we mentioned the story of LaTisha Reid, the former Oklahoma unclaimed property auditor charged with stealing unclaimed property from the state.  Reid ultimately pled guilty to some two dozen felonies and was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison.  Kids, crime doesn’t pay. 

What Do Both Parties Have in Common?:  As you may know, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC ended last night, with a speech by the President.  The previous week, the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa, FL.  Now, we try to keep it bipartisan here at Escheatable, but what do the parties have in common?  Unclaimed property.  According to a search on Missing Money, both parties have funds held for them by the states. 

States Continue To Set Reunification Records

We have seen a number of new and or reinvigorated efforts by state governments to return unclaimed property to the true owners of that property.  In fact, soon we will run our next installment of “Meet Your Escheator” with Kentucky State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach to talk about Kentucky’s unique holder reunification programs.  In the interim, we have more states announcing record amounts returned to owners:

In Massachusetts, State Treasurer Steven Grossman announced that the Bay State has returned more than $84 million to residents during Fiscal Year 2012, a 10% increase over last year’s return.

Out west in Nevada, State Treasurer Kate Marshall announced that her office has returned more than $33 million in the past fiscal year, a new record.

Illinois State Treasury Announces Launch of "I-Cash" Program

Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford recently announced a relaunch of Illinois’ unclaimed property outreach program, and the addition of more than 780,000 names to the state’s unclaimed property database.  The new program, called I-Cash, aims to connect Illinois residents to the more than $1.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) that the state is currently holding for its residents.

According to the program’s marketing piece, 1 and 8 Illinois residents have property being held for them by the Treasurer’s office.  In other reunification news, the unclaimed property administrations of MissouriArkansasIowa, and Pennsylvania all recently touted their successes in reuniting unclaimed funds with their rightful owners.