Unclaimed Asset Counts are Growing. Make Sure You Aren't Owed Money!
Every day, more and more assets are categorized as "unclaimed". In other words, housing, property, insurance payouts, and more, are just in the hands of state and local governments. Many of them simply have laws requiring them to publish a "one and done" notice in any newspaper that they count on you not reading. After a certain period of time, that money could permanently disappear into state coffers.
Here's why this count is climbing at the moment and what you can do about it. Also see our older articles for the specific sites you need to check to ensure that you don't already have unclaimed assets out there! Some people find that they have a life insurance policy to collect on worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even more.
COVID-19: A Major Slowdown
While the media has hyped coronavirus fears to an all-time high, we went very quickly from a "bull market" to a "bear market". In other words, we went from a booming economy with reasonable stock and bond yields to one based on fear and early selling out almost overnight due to COVID-19. Less people are interested in ensuring they have claimed all of their assets while they're trying to ensure they both retain economic viability and do not catch the virus itself.
However, COVID-19 isn't the only reason that the count of unclaimed assets is slowing down. This trend has been in the making for quite a long period of time. This is partially due to more lax state laws, allowing a simple newspaper publication to declare that someone is missing a huge amount in assets and giving that person a minimal amount of time to check into the matter.
Don't Rely on Databases
While state databases may seem like the definitive answer to your questions about whether you have unclaimed assets, do not treat these as if they're completely correct all the time. State databases only publish what they are legally required to put out there. If they don't need to put that information in a digital form, you won't find it.
Therefore, your best option is to contact the Treasurer's Office of each state in which you've lived or conducted business. Explain that you're hunting for unclaimed assets and understand that they may not be required to keep an up-to-date online database of unclaimed assets. After you give them all your requisite information, you may have to wait a bit. However, this usually puts a "pause" on the statute of limitation for unclaimed property, since most are based on the time of the first inquiry.
Don't become a major source of funding to fill in a local government's budget shortfalls! Becoming an active participant in this market can help push governments for more transparency and honesty as we continue into an age where it seems like ethics have been thrown out the window.
Don't Fall for Scams
Sadly, the unclaimed assets industry is wide-open to scammers. Chances are that no legitimate entity will contact you to inform you that you have unclaimed assets, and all you need to do is provide sensitive identifying information first. It can be tempting, but remember that states and local governments have nothing to lose by keeping your assets most of the time.
Any third-party request should be treated with suspicion until you're absolutely certain it's coming from an actual government entity and not a made-up organization that is just preying on people who need more money to pay for a variety of expenses. Some scams even use actual unclaimed assets! They find assets under your name and inform you that you have unclaimed assets; however, these assets require proof of identity to claim, so they may ask for proof of your identity, and they may even pay you money. However, you'll probably get a very small percentage of what you were actually owed while the con artists retain the vast majority of the money.
Don't get caught up in these scams, regardless of how nice that extra few thousand dollars sounds!
Above all, remain calm. Remember, the world isn't coming to an end because of COVID-19, despite what you may be hearing from news channels. It's certainly distracting people from claiming assets that are rightfully theirs. As always, there will be those who prey on distracted people. As long as you keep your wits about you, you should do just fine.