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Admittedly it sounds fishy: you may be a few clicks away from no-strings-attached cash. But it’s no scam.

The fact is that states are holding onto literally billions of dollars in unclaimed property that belongs to people all of the country – and some of that could be yours. Just look at the amount of unclaimed money held by the top 10 states holding the highest value in unpaid claims.

Top 10 States Holding the Highest Value in Unpaid Claims

  1. New York: $12 billion
  2. California: $6.1 billion
  3. Texas: $2.2 billion
  4. Pennsylvania: $1.9 billion
  5. Michigan: $1.55 billion
  6. Ohio: $1.53 billion
  7. Illinois: $1.5 billion
  8. Florida: $1.2 billion
  9. North Carolina: $1.14 billion
  10. Virginia: $1.1 billion

Source: National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) 2012 Unclaimed Property Survey

How much cash could you snag? It depends, of course, but of the $2.25 billion returned as a result of state unclaimed property program efforts in 2012, the average claim was $892 according to NAST. For many of us, that kind of cash could make a good dent in a credit card bill or help jump-start an emergency savings account.

Where Does It Come From?

There are a variety of sources for this money, but the top 10 are:

  1. Savings or checking accounts
  2. Uncashed dividends or payroll checks
  3. Stock certificates or accounts, bonds, mutual fund accounts
  4. Insurance payments or refunds
  5. Utility/security deposits
  6. Travelers checks
  7. Unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states)
  8. Life insurance policies
  9. Contents of safe deposit boxes
  10. Misplaced pensions, retirement money and lost 401(k)s

This is all money the rightful owner either forgot about, or in the case of an inheritance or insurance policy beneficiary, may not even know about. If you find a match, you may even be owed interest on those funds, depending on the type of property and the rules in your state.

Like Winning a Free Lottery

Some of the biggest claims have been more than $1 million. For example, here is a list of the top 10 single highest claims ever paid by state:

  1. North Carolina: $12,421,645
  2. Missouri: $6.1 million
  3. Texas: $4.3 million
  4. New York: $4 million
  5. Florida: $3.9 million
  6. California: $3.5 million
  7. Wisconsin: $3,190,128
  8. Arizona: $2.4 million
  9. New Jersey: $2.3 million
  10. Pennsylvania: $2,117,816

We’re not talking about just a few people here and there who find they are entitled to unclaimed property. Hundreds of thousands of lucky consumers each year learn they have money coming to them. 

The Top Five Highest Total Claims Paid Out (2013)

  1. Ohio had 5,930,845 total searches in 2013 with 162,797 total claims.
  2. Texas had 2,141,237 total searches in 2013 with 150,104 total claims.
  3. Florida had 2,083,698 total searches in 2013 with 134,604 total claims.
  4. New Jersey had 4,233,547 total searches in 2013 with 75,587 total claims.
  5. Arizona had 1,772,048 total searches in 2013 with 51,190 total claims.

Find out if you have unclaimed property coming to you by searching MissingMoney.com. It’s completely free, and there is no fee to search for your property. (Avoid anyone who tries to charge you a finder’s fee for this service.) If you find a match, you will be given instructions for filing a claim. Twenty-three states accept claims electronically, while seven states offer a completely paperless claim process. 

And if you’ve searched before, or if you have only searched your state treasurer’s website, it doesn’t hurt to try again. New property is being added all the time, and because it covers multiple states, something may turn up in another state. (Currently, most states participate, but if you have ties to one that doesn’t, you will want to check that state’s site as well.) My husband found out he was owed more than $500 a few years ago, and recently learned he was owed a couple hundred dollars from another source.

You never know what might be waiting for you, and it won’t cost you a dime to find out.

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