Worried about Falling Victim to Unclaimed Assets Scam? Follow These Steps
While finding actual unclaimed assets can be a literal dream come true, the opposite can happen if you're contacted by scammers. What looks like a dream could be a nightmare in disguise. For example, older people are often contacted by people pretending to represent an official agency. Keep these tips in mind as you go forward to help guarantee that you don't fall victim to these immoral scams. After all, you deserve all of that hard-earned money, not a con artist who tries to steal it from you!
Remember NO Federal Agency Handles This
With a few small exceptions, such as the Veterans' Affairs Office, falling under federal jurisdiction, most unclaimed asset offices are handled by state or local governments. It's very rare for the federal government to even have databases of this property. Even rarer would be getting contacted by the federal government regarding potentially unclaimed property from them.
The best way to make sure it's the federal government is to make sure that the information is publicly available on a website with a ".gov" domain. The federal government has repeatedly stated it will not contact potential recipients by phone. If you're contacted by phone, just hang up immediately. These scams can be multi-faceted and also charge you exorbitantly for each minute you talk on your phone with the scammers, making it very important that you hang up as soon as possible.
Search the Papers Online
While not every state has a digital database, each state does have a law that states how they must handle unclaimed property. These laws, dating back to the 1800s, often say that states are obligated to publish the information in a few local newspapers. Unfortunately, these laws don't take into account the fact that moving is much easier than it used to be, and people don't usually use newspapers as their primary source of news.
However, services like Google News allow searching to be easier than ever. If you simply search for your own name, you should get some leads from older state newspapers. Even fairly small local newspapers are often included in Google News. Google archives the most newspapers out of any company, making this one of the most likely avenues to use in which you will not get scammed while searching for your unclaimed property.
Search Every State/Local DB
Remember, your assets may be in states where you've never lived. This has to do with where and how companies store assets. Often, they use very tax-friendly states like Delaware to process payroll even if they're actually headquartered in far-away states. These tax havens have been the last to finally bend to the pressure to make records digitally available.
However, remember that databases aren't stopped at the state level. This is a common misconception that local governments would like for you to have, almost as bad as scamming itself! Most local governments also have databases online; if they don't, you have the right to contact the Treasurer's Office and inquire free of charge, and you should absolutely do so.
So, how do you know which offices to target? Look at every place you've lived along with every employer you've had and where they store their assets (this information is public for most employers at some level). Inquire using public databases for these local governments and state governments after using any federal options available (especially for those who served in the military). Finding your own assets virtually guarantees you won't fall victim to a cheap scam that takes advantage of your natural desire to reclaim what's rightfully yours!
Use the "Too Good to be True?" Adage
Chances are that you've heard the adage that "if it's too good to be true, it probably is". The chances of you receiving the inheritance of a deceased Nigerian prince is exceedingly low. However, if you have an estranged grandparent who passed away, and it looks like you may be owed money from his or her life insurance policy, for example, it's far more likely that this is a legitimate claim that can earn you some money.
Don't rely on third parties to contact you. This accounts for almost 100% of scams. If you get a call, simply hang up. Use this as motivation to look for your own assets, as chances are that somebody else has found something significant under your name and is trying to steal it.
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