When I found out the city of Pasadena, Calif., had more than a quarter of a million dollars-worth of people's missing money, that was the first time I had heard that cities often keep unclaimed money lists, too. You see, unclaimed money is usually held by the states and the feds, and even after a year of doing our series, "Show Me the Money," I had never come across a case where somebody was owed unclaimed money by a city. But, boy am I happy I was in the dark! This gives me a brand new vein to tap for stories, and you a new place to search for lost funds that belong to you.
Local government unclaimed money stockpiles are somewhat different from those held by states. States are charged with safeguarding abandoned money turned over by private companies such as banks and brokerage firms. Unclaimed money held by cities usually consists of city checks that were never cashed. So if you have ever done business with your local government or applied for a permit or license, or that sort of thing, your chances are higher of finding something.
You should also know that some states require local jurisdictions to turn over any unclaimed money exceeding $100 to the state. Others allow those local governments to be the stewards of their own unclaimed money, with no dollar limit. Also, keep in mind that while 99 percent of states hold citizens' lost money indefinitely, local governments may not be required to do that, so there could be some urgency to your search.
When I searched the phrases "city of" and "unclaimed property," I got 1.5 million hits! Clearly, there's a lot of money out there! And guess what? That's not the end of it. I got tens of thousands more hits when I substituted the words "county of" and "village of" and so on. You can do a similar search, plugging in the name of your city, county, town or village and different ways of saying "unclaimed money."
One important note on that: Most government agencies use the term "unclaimed property" instead of "unclaimed money." It's government-ese and typically refers to money -- not real estate.
Here are several suggested search terms to guide you in your efforts. Just type them into your favorite search engine. This is, by no means, a complete list, but will give you an idea of where to start. Try searching with the key phrases in quotes (which gives you only those words in that order) and with them not in quotes for maximum potential. Combine every phrase for a city or town that is in the left column with every phrase that means unclaimed money in the second column.
City of (name of your city)
Town of _____
Township of _____
Village of _____
County of _____
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