Every year around this time, the Pennsylvania treasurer sends out a press release to remind residents of the more than $3.2 billion in unclaimed property sitting in the State Treasury, waiting to be claimed. And every year, feeling like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory hoping to get a golden ticket, I log onto patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property, hoping to see my name so that I can file a claim and get an unexpected windfall.
According to Joe Torsella, our state treasurer, one in 10 residents of Pennsylvania is listed with unclaimed money.
Unclaimed property is any financial asset that has gone unclaimed for a period of time, usually three years. Under Pennsylvania law, businesses are required to report this to the Treasury. Each year, the Treasury receives millions of dollars in unclaimed property — items such as abandoned bank accounts, checks sent to incorrect addresses, forgotten stocks, uncashed checks and contents of safety deposit boxes. The property remains available for claim by the owners or their heirs in perpetuity, and the Treasury serves as the custodian until it can find and verify its rightful legal owner.
If you ever searched for your name before, you know that the Pa. Government website is set up to be very user-friendly. You enter your first and last name and instantly see if any long-lost funds pop up. In addition to your name and the source of your unclaimed money, the site lists whether the amount is over $100 or under $100. If, for some reason, someone cannot access the website, they can also call the Treasury’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property toll free at 1-800-222-2046, and someone will help the caller to conduct a thorough search for unclaimed property.
This year, for the very first time, I found myself on the list! Woohoo! Although my amount, somehow unclaimed from Verizon in 2008, is under $100, I decided still to claim it and filled out my form. Now I will have to wait to see if the amount is $1 or $99 — it’ll give me something to look forward to getting in the mail besides my dreaded monthly cellphone, cable and credit card bills. There’s even a simple spot on the same webpage to track your money and see when it’s on its way.
In my case, the money was from Verizon and never originally reached me back in 2008, due to an incorrect address. For some strange reason, Verizon listed me as residing in Sharon Hill, where I never lived. I know my amount is probably peanuts, but I still filed on principle last week, thinking why let the government get any more of my moolah than they already get? Plus, who wants their name lying around on some public list when it comes to finances of any kind?
The reason that I’m relaying all this information is to encourage readers to go on the site and enter your name and file a simple claim. I caught the fever and started checking friends and relatives, and, I kid you not, I found many people whom I know on that list. I felt like Santa Claus on an unexpected return visit in January, telling them to file a claim to get money that they had no idea they had coming to them. It was downright fun delivering all that good news. After you check for your own name, try looking up a few friends and family members and tip them off if you find them on there. Your news will be welcomed with many smiles. My one nephew even promised to take me out to dinner when he got his funds! I laughed and told him that I would leave the tip since I was in the “Under 100” category.
According to Treasurer Torsella, “The Treasury receives hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed property every year. These items and funds go missing, often for things as simple as a misspelled name or an out of date address. But let’s be clear, this is YOUR money we’re talking about, and we don’t want to keep it.”
So instead of hoping to win a few extra bucks on your instant lotto ticket or in some little raffle or 50/50 drawing, log onto the Pa. Treasurer’s unclaimed funds site and good luck! After all, where else can you go that offers you a one-in-10 odds of scoring some money?
In a nutshell, log on to patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property and enter your first and last name. If you see that you have unclaimed money, fill out the simple form, print it out and sign and mail to Unclaimed Property Claims, 4th Floor, Riverfront Office Center, 1101 S. Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17104-2516. Those with questions can call 1-800-222 2046, email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by in person to their state representative’s office for help in applying for the unclaimed funds.