Comptroller’s office makes it easier to find unclaimed money

Posted Friday, Aug. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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How to search for unclaimed property To search by name or business, go to the Texas comptroller’s website, www.ClaimItTexas.org. By phone or mail: Call 800-654-3462. Limited to three name searches. Include your name, address, Social Security number, mailing address and contact information. Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Unclaimed Property Claims Section, P.O. Box 12046, Austin, TX 78711-2046 To donate: Go to www.MatchThePromise.org Source: Texas comptroller of public accounts
Unclaimed properties, by city Arlington: 282,741 Bedford: 42,063 Crowley: 10,374 Euless: 47,261 Fort Worth: 581,938 Grapevine: 42,482 Hurst: 32,168 Haltom City: 17,784 Keller: 34,077 North Richland Hills: 34,806 Mansfield: 29,172 Southlake: 18,927 Tarrant County: 1.2 million claims

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Right now, $127 million is sitting in the state’s bank account that belongs to residents of Tarrant County.

It comes from your abandoned bank accounts, uncashed checks, uncollected security deposits and forgotten utility refunds. It’s from insurance proceeds, mineral interest or royalty payments, and abandoned safe-deposit boxes.

And it’s easier than ever to collect thanks to upgrades in the unclaimed-property section of the Texas comptroller’s office. Since 2007, the comptroller has returned $1 billion on 1.1 million claims. Previously, the office returned $900 million in the 44 years after the program began in 1962.

But there is still plenty to hand out. The comptroller has about $3 billion in unclaimed property and an additional $800 million in shared property that has only been partly claimed. The office estimates that 1 in 4 Texans is owed something. The average value of unclaimed funds in Tarrant County is $106.

“That money belongs to Texans, and it is important that we get it back into the right hands,” Comptroller Susan Combs said.

While it’s called unclaimed property, the state is really holding unclaimed money that businesses, utilities or other entities must turn over to the state when they can’t find the person who should collect it.

“The comptroller’s role in unclaimed property is to be the custodian of the property until the rightful owner files a claim and proves that the property being held is theirs,” said R.J. DeSilva, spokesman for the comptroller’s office. “The unclaimed-property statutes require a person to file a claim and prove ownership before the state can return proceeds to the owner.”

Upgrades to the online database make searching and matching unclaimed funds easier than before, DeSilva said. In addition, the turnaround for getting a claim has decreased from 45 days to about 20 because of access to a public-records database to help verify claimants and speed up approvals, he said.

Searching the unclaimed-property website, www.ClaimItTexas.org, is simple and requires only a name and an address.

In about 10 minutes, I found more than $400 worth of claims for a half-dozen friends and relatives. The claims ranged from a penny owed to me from a PayPal account to almost $200 owed to a friend from a physicians group.

Once you’ve identified whether you are owed anything, you can complete an online form with more details, including your Social Security number, to prove that you are the correct recipient. Then you can download your claim form and send it back to the comptroller.

The comptroller’s office has stepped up its outreach by sending notification letters and claims forms annually to new owners on the list of certain types of property, DeSilva said.

“The letters are sent to property owners whose property values are $100 or more for checking accounts, saving accounts, stocks and related property, and wages,” he said.

The unclaimed-property section is also holding local events, including a booth at the State Fair.

“We have grassroots staff that set up at various events in the state to help Texans find and claim their unclaimed property on the spot and show people how to search for unclaimed money at any time,” DeSilva said.

“These events include festivals, expos, county fairs, home-and-garden shows, and events with county treasurers.”

DeSilva warns that finding unreturned funds is so simple that heir finders will offer to help people recover their money for a fee, generally around 10 percent.

“But residents can easily do this themselves by going to the searchable website at any time,” he said.

Searching or filing a claim is free, and the funds are there indefinitely.

Another program recently set up by the comptroller allows parties claiming funds to donate some or all to a scholarship program.

This year, the Texas Match the Promise Foundation is providing 56 students, including seven in Tarrant County, up to $1,000 in tuition units. Participants must be part of the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, the state’s prepaid tuition plan, to receive the Texas Match scholarship.

So far, unclaimed-property contributions to the program, which also accepts other donations, have totaled $314,641, DeSilva said.

Take a minute to see whether you or any loved ones are listed in the database. You may make someone happy.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

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