How to Tell Whether an Unclaimed Asset Site is Legitimate or Not
The unclaimed asset industry is a huge industry, with tens of billions of dollars up for grabs. Naturally, this attracts scammers. There are two types of main scams; the first is just to steal your information to open credit cards in your name and perform other classic types of identity theft. More often than not, you'll be contacted via phone or email and asked for personal information to "verify" that you are that person who's owed millions of dollars.
The second type of scam is a bit more insidious. This involves money that is actually owed to you. Scammers find this, then contact you to notify you of it. They then get all the information required by the agency that has declared the money is owed to you and have the money sent to them instead. In order to recover money scammed this way, you would need to locate the scammers themselves and report them to police. In either case, it's much easier if you recognize scams in the first place and avoid becoming a victim of them. Here are sites you can use that are not scams and will guide you towards assets that are rightfully yours!
This site is relatively new, and it's faced a good amount of scrutiny. As the most-trending unclaimed asset site, it's irreplaceable. Unlike most databases, this is known as a "meta-database" for unclaimed assets. In other words, it searches every other known state and local database that allows searches in an automated fashion; some require "captchas" to be entered to ensure that the visitor is a real person. However, Unclaimed.org includes links to these databases, so it really is an "all-in-one" solution for those looking for unclaimed assets.
Sites ending with ".gov" are usually not included in sites like Unclaimed.org, since these sites tend to require some form of identity verification to verify that you're owed money. It's information that most people wouldn't feel comfortable entering in private sites like Unclaimed.org.
These sites, such as the Veterans' Affairs Administration, keep track of what money beneficiaries of previous or current federal employees are owed. Their URLs change constantly, so Googling these now is the best way to see ".gov" sites that are current and legitimate; just make sure the link you click matches the ".gov" link you see in text, or you just may end up on a scammer's call list!
While news aggregators like Google News do their best to include every state and local newspaper, nothing will substitute for meticulous archives of these papers kept by libraries. Quite often, libraries will have collection of these papers uniquely stretching back since the paper's inception.
Many governments refuse to post notices of owed money anywhere besides where they legally are required to, which is almost always newspapers. However, the only place to find these can sometimes be within papers. First, look up the state's statute of limitations on unclaimed assets. There's no use in searching for papers published after this statute of limitations has passed, so this can limit your search.
Next, ask if the library uses "OCR" technology. This essentially reads papers into text, like Google News does, and then allows you to search for different text. Sometimes, you are able to search hundreds of years' worth of newspapers in a matter of minutes, which can help put your mind at bay regarding whether you're owed more unclaimed assets or not!
What's the Best Method?
There is no "best method" for finding unclaimed assets. While we go over a good many in this blog, there's no guarantee that a single aggregator will contain the records that indicate you, specifically, are owed any additional monies. That's why you'll need to first look for context, ask any people for whom you'd be a potential beneficiary if you are, and dig into your ancestry.
From there, each person should have a unique "attack plan" for finding out whether they're owed unclaimed property. Of course, begin with the easiest platforms first; this is sites such as Unclaimed.org and online federal databases. Chances are high that you'll need to visit a local or state-level library to be able to fully search newspapers to answer your question about whether you're owed unclaimed assets definitively once and for all!
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