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I just made $1,900 very quickly and very easily. And you may be able to as well--but only if you're irresponsible and disorganized.

The Suspicious but TRUE Magic of Unclaimed Property: How I Made $1,900 in 10 Minutes Just by Being a Disorganized Mess of a Human Being

It’s hard to pinpoint which personal finance site I dislike the most. There are so many tone-deaf mansplainers and pyramid scammers to choose from!

… But The Penny Hoarder is way up there.

I see their ads everywhere. And I’ve read more than a few of their articles, thanks to their scientifically-engineered-for-maximum-clickbait titles. But they are so utterly and embarrassingly saturated with affiliate referral links promising “quick” and “easy” money that I feel the strong need to shower afterwards.

Ugh. I just really hate that kind of crap.

Spoiler alert, kids: almost nothing worth doing can be done quickly or easily. By definition, people only seek quick and easy solutions to long and hard problems! “One cool trick” ads ain’t out there saving lives.

  • If there were miracle exercises that gave you Jason Momoa’s body with only ten minutes of weekly exercise, there would be no highly compensated personal trainers in LA, and everyone would look like Jason Momoa. (And what a lovely planet that would be!)
  • If there were miracle diets or supplements that could really change the shape of your body quickly and easily, we’d’ve discovered them millennia ago, because there is nothing on this green earth that a human being hasn’t shoved in their pie hole. The only truly new food we have invented in the last ten thousand years is Velveeta, and in my hands-on experience, eating Velveeta initiates a slow process of becoming Velveeta.
  • If there were some miracle product that could eliminate acne, there wouldn’t be 2.5 aisles full of hundreds of different skincare products at Target. We would just use The One!

The same is absolutely true for money as well. If it could grow on trees, there’d be a fuck ton more arborists. Alas, currency is a scarce commodity that’s difficult and time-consuming to accumulate by its very nature.

I say all of this so that you understand how shocked I am to be writing an article with this headline… and meaning every word of it.

I just made $1,900 very quickly and very easily. And you may be able to make money in the exact same way—but it only works if you are as irresponsible and disorganized as I am.

Intrigued? Mwa ha ha… good.

What is unclaimed property?

“Unclaimed property” is a blanket term for any money that’s been sitting inactive with a business or financial institution for a length of time. (Guidelines vary, but usually it’s one year.)

It could be…

  • Checking or savings accounts
  • Stocks
  • Uncashed checks
  • Stock dividends
  • Trust distributions
  • Unredeemed money orders
  • Refunds for customer overpayments
  • Security deposits
  • Insurance payments
  • And more!

How does it work?

Let’s say you move into your first apartment and plop down a $500 security deposit.

Years pass. You eventually get a new job, move to a new city, and leave your old apartment behind. And you didn’t provide your old landlords with your new address, so the rental management company has no idea where to send your $500 check.

By law, the rental company can’t just keep your money. They must turn it over to the State Treasurer. The Treasurer keeps a record of to whom the money belongs. If that person reappears and proves their identity, the Treasury will cut them a check for the missing money.

How common is this?

Uh, real common! About one in ten people have unclaimed property.

When I started searching for unclaimed property, I plugged in the names of about thirty of my closest friends and family members. Almost half of them had something waiting for them!

It’s not too unusual when you consider how many people spend their twenties moving from dorm to dorm, apartment to apartment, part-time job to part-time job, across different cities and states. Of course it’s easy to lose just one piece of mail!

The money may not even be yours! If you’ve inherited an estate (from the passing of, say, a parent or grandparent), your deceased family member could have unclaimed property. As their heir, you’re entitled to it.

So wait—how do I know if I have unclaimed property?

Y’all. It’s so fucking simple I kinda wanna cry…

You go to the official website of the Treasury Department of your state. Then you type in your first and last name, and hit search.

That’s. It.

Last known addresses, towns, or counties are usually provided to help differentiate between people with similar names. Also, the search function likely won’t tell you how much money it is.

You can Google your state’s name, plus the term “unclaimed property.” Or check out this handy list from Unclaimed.Org.

WARNING: be extra careful that you’re actually clicking on a legit link! It really doesn’t help that 100% of these websites are suspiciously ugly and badly designed. And although some have very legit-sounded URLs (like Nevada’s NevadaTeasurer.gov or Missouri’s Treasurer.MO.gov), others have extremely suspicious-sounding names. I have no idea what  Florida’s “FLTreasureHunt.gov” or New Hampshire’s “NewHampshire.FindYourUnclaimedProperty.com“ were thinking! Where’s the .gov hustle, Granite State??

So always follow the link directly from a reputable source.

What happens if I DO have unclaimed property?

It differs slightly from state to state and account to account. But for me, the process was extraordinarily simple.

I clicked “submit a claim” for the two accounts that appeared to be me. Filled in a few easy fields and hit “send.” Within a few minutes, I got an automated email asking for me to do three things:

  • Sign and upload a document that basically says “I promise I’m not lying about who I am to do you A Bamboozle.”
  • Upload proof of your identity, such as a photo of your driver’s license.
  • Upload proof of your social security or tax number, such as your social security card or an copy of a past year’s tax filing.

Once I uploaded those three documents to their online portal, a check from the Treasury Department appeared about a week later. I cashed it this very morning.

Wait, you really made $1,900 this way?

Sigh…

I am not proud to admit this, but, yes.

I found two unclaimed properties. One was a prorated refund from an auto insurance policy I’d canceled. So that was about about $20. “Hey, cool, $20 buys a lot of Skyr!”

Side note: Do you think Icelandic Provisions wants to sponsor the next season of our podcast? Because I will talk for hours about the firm, velvety texture and tangy-yet-sweet flavor of their extremely perfect fermented dairy product, but my inner capitalist says “Don’t do it, what if Chobani or Dannon want to sponsor you one day!?” But honestly, I already know that I have too much integrity to ever hawk such SAD, SLOPPY, FLOPPY YOGURTS. That shit is mad unacceptable.

Skyr ’till I die. No, Skyr from beyond the grave. When I die, brick me up inside a pharaoh’s pyramid with six hundred cartons of Coconut Skyr. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk and all but what was I talking about before this…?

Yes, I’m scatterbrained. This isn’t an “I’m perfect, be like me” blog. It’s an “I’m often lazy and disorganized, plz don’t be like me” blog.

So, uh, the other account was for $1,872.

Evidently, when I started at my first-ever Big Girl corporate job, I had opened an HSA. I’m sure I just followed whatever prompts I was given as I worked through a mountain of paperwork in my first week! I put $50 a month into that HSA, apparently. It quietly accumulated without my knowledge over the two to three years I worked at that company, then sat unclaimed, waiting to be rediscovered.

I’m pretty embarrassed that I could lose track of nearly $2K that easily. It just goes to show you how right Piggy was when she wrote about the magic of rounding up! I didn’t miss such a small amount of money per paycheck, but it had one helluvah glow up.

Also, read some of those papers you’re signing, I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Can anyone beat my record?

Alright, readers. Here’s your call to action. Go to Unclaimed.org, click on your state, and do a quick search for your name and the names of a few close loved ones, including anyone whose estate you’ve inherited.

If you find some money, tell us how much in the comments below!

And if anyone is able to beat my $1,894.61, I will prostrate myself on the ground at your feet and hail you as The One True Queen of Disorganization, Wearer of the Jewel-Encrusted Crown of Perpetual Tardiness, Bearer of the Royal Scepter of Lifelong Undiagnosed ADHD, Keeper of the Golden Keys of Where The Fuck Are My Keys, Ope, There They Are, They Were Exactly Where They’re Supposed To Go, Which Really Threw Me Off.

35 thoughts to “The Suspicious but TRUE Magic of Unclaimed Property: How I Made $1,900 in 10 Minutes Just by Being a Disorganized Mess of a Human Being”

  1. Two points of awesome:
    1. I had never seen the double contraction “we’d‘ve” spelled out in text. Awesome.
    2. Siggi’s Icelandic skyr yogurt, mixed berry flavor. Awesome.

    Sadly, I found no unclaimed funds.

    1. My brother and I found about two thousand dollars owed my dad, after he died. It was a little harder to get since we had to prove that he had passed away and that we were the rightful heirs but we did get the money. I’ll attest this does work! My dad was a self made middle class millionaire and I think he’d be proud we got “his” money back.

  2. None for myself sadly, but did stumble across “over $100” (as quoted on the state website) owed to my grandma, and about $190 potentially on my husband’s side of the family. So, calling up my gran when I get a chance today and telling her to claim her lost vaguest value!

  3. Well I wasn’t expecting to find any of my own money, but after searching my immediate family I searched for my aunt’s name on a lark and may have found something! Now, how to tell my aunt I may have found her a decent chunk of change when we aren’t really that close…..

  4. Woot! Almost $500! Just gotta get that remote notary now! (Seriously hope that sticks around after all this …)

  5. This is the best background activity for the boring parts of a zoom meeting. I just entered in the names of everyone I know and found unclaimed money for 4 pals, and kept myself entertained to boot!

    1. Thank you so much! I found I have 130$ in uncashed cheques! Now to find a printer so I can request a replacement cheque…

  6. Mine was a whopping $50, because I’m OCD about shit like that.

    Permanent Roommate, OTOH, is a dumpster fire of a hot mess. The business had over $1K in unclaimed funds; and he himself had $385 in “free” money. (Which explains why I am CFO of Hyphen House, and he’s not allowed to touch the tax return. LOL)

  7. An employee of my state’s unclaimed property division of the Treasury department came in to my work and let me tell you she had STORIES! They try to reunite people with their money all year but usually focus on the bigger amounts. She showed me pictures of some gorgeous Tiffany jewelry and other antique jewelry they had and told me they had a whole room full of unclaimed property. Apparently it can be rather difficult because people get pretty hostile when you call them up saying you have their property. It tends to set off scam alerts in people’s minds.

  8. So here’s mine-I received a check from NY state for $11,000 and discovered a bank account that I’d opened with my first job with $55,000 in it! So, don’t be embarrassed.

  9. Woot! $272 from an insurance refund that was issued after my post-divorce name change a few years back. Fun hint: search ALL of your names, if you, like me, have made multiple grandiose life-mistakes that resulted in assuming a new (or old) identity.

    I also went down the rabbit hole searching family members and friends, and already let 5 different people know they dropped some cash and have a chance to snag it back!

    Thanks as always for great advice, along with cartoons, princess real-talk, and excessive swearing.

  10. Relatedly, always sign up for class action settlements if you get the paperwork for them. I got one coming out of college–I guess some nurse gave some people the wrong shots and she also gave me shots so…. I ended up with $2k which certainly helped launch out of college.

    I think I did a tires one or an airbag on recently that ended up in the 200-300 range. Not bad…

  11. $50 from 8+ years ago!

    I think it might have been two $25 refund checks from my old credit card back in the day when credit card companies actually issued paper checks for the rebates.

    Sweet!

  12. Close! Last year I discovered I had over $1,600 in a 401k I had contributed to at my first job when I was 22 and didn’t understand what a 401k was. That was fun to roll over!

  13. My husband has about $1500 (allegedly) in unclaimed monies but he’s never resided in the state! Not sure how we go about getting it.

    And just yesterday his parents called to say that they found $2,500 belonging to my husband in an old suitcase. Apparently at a job he had 12 years ago (part-time) he was cashing his paychecks and hiding them away! I could cry thinking about all of the compound interest he’s missed out on…

    Glad to see it was easy for you to claim your money!

  14. AHAHAHAHAAHAHA – I checked my name and apparently have a refund owing from Amazon for FIFTY CENTS

    I’ve checked this before, but it’s been a few years 😀

  15. An interesting coincidence is that I received a piece of mail this week from a law firm telling me I had some unclaimed money. The letter stated the amount with an offer from the law firm to file the claim for me, and, if successful, the firm would send me an invoice for 10% of the claim. Normally I’d think this was just some kind of spam but then got I around to reading this post and doing a search for myself. Lo and behold the amount of unclaimed money was exactly the amount the letter was talking about and was only recently listed. Seems kind of sketchy yet typical for capitalism.

  16. Lol, found out I have $67 unclaimed in RI, where I haven’t lived for 13 years! Certainly doesn’t beat yours, but better than nothing for sure! 😀

  17. My unclaimed property last year amounted to $4,500, which was, well, stunning. And a bit life-changing at that moment. (However, I was directly notified by the state regarding it.)

  18. Popping by very late to say that I just received a whopping $62 check from New York State! Thanks for the non-clickbait assistance

  19. On the spot! Unclaimed properties are reaching $100B in the USA alone. The primary reason is that companies which hold our assets are not required by law to inform our family members for our assets, if anything happens to us.

    Unfortunately the period after which these companies should return our money to the state, varies from state to state and country to country, and for some states is 15 years, with 10 years being the average … So our money will be classified as “unclaimed” and searchable in the state databases only 10-15 years after our bank account was inactive, or our life insurance payout had to be paid (but the insurance company never paid it to our family members, even when they had their contacts).

    Digital inheritance services, most of which are free, offer good protection agains that risk.

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