Is the state holding your unclaimed money?

Is the state holding your unclaimed money? »Play Video
What a great feeling it is to find money you forgot you had. Thousands of local people could get that feeling right now. All it takes is five minutes and a computer.

The state Department of Revenue's Unclaimed Property Fund is now up to $600 million. It's clear a lot of people don't bother to check.

Will Harris didn't bother for ten years. Harris works at KOMO News and, like many of us, he's known about the unclaimed property Web sites but just assumed he had no unclaimed money.

But last April when the subject came up he decided, 'what the heck?'

A check of the unclaimed property Web site for Washington state turned up nothing. Then, to his shock, there it was -- "William R. Harris" listed on the unclaimed property Web site for the state of North Carolina, where Harris once lived.

"I was surprised. But I suspected I never got my tax refund from when I moved from North Carolina to Washington," he said.

It's a move he made ten years ago.

The Web sites don't tell you exactly how much you're getting, only whether it's more or less than $100.

You have to file a claim to prove your identity and verify that you lived at the address listed on the site. Harris mailed his claim on April 3.

Eleven weeks and a day later, he got an envelope in the mail.

"Aha!" Harris exclaimed as he opened the check. "It's a check for $125."

That was $125 that had been sitting, unclaimed, for a decade.

"I'm a very happy camper. Anytime you get free money it's nice. It was my money the whole time, but it feels like you still won a prize." said Harris, examining the check.

Again, the state Department of Revenue is holding $600 million in cash, plus $75 million in securities and even more in valuables left in safe deposit boxes.

Unlike cash, stocks and securities, unclaimed property and documents left in safe deposit boxes are not held indefinitely; the contents are auctioned off after a certain period of time. In the state of Washington, the auctions are held every four years.

So even if you've checked before, take time to periodically double check those unclaimed property Web sites. State law requires all employers and other businesses to turn in unclaimed wages and other money, but the Department of Revenue says many are slow to get the word, which means money is coming in and names are being added all the time.

Check the unclaimed property site for any state where you've lived, especially if you've recently moved. Just stay away from any site or any solicitation that wants you to pay to collect your money. Collecting unclaimed money or property is free.

More information:

National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators