With the weak dollar and the current state of the US economy, quick extra cash would most certainly be a blessing for most Americans right now. A recent story in “The Independent” reported that a record 28 million Americans are relying on food stamps to survive. Is this The Great Depression ’08? Not quite, but across the U.S, rising fuel, the housing slump and national credit crunch is forcing Americans to make lifestyle changes. Fact is, more and more people all over the country are working extra hours and looking for ways earn a few more bucks to make ends meet. Ironically, a lot of them might not have to look any further than their State Treasury Department. Not many people are aware that they are owed money by the government but it’s a fact. Residents of the 50 states are owed over $30 billion spread-out among the individual Treasury Departments and New York State’s unclaimed money account is one of the biggest.
State unclaimed money can come from various sources for various reasons. 17,000 Albany residents for example, have yet to cash their property tax rebate checks amounting to $5.6 million. Any unclaimed checks will get turned-over to the State Comptroller on March 2009 as NY State unclaimed money. WXXi recently reported that Monroe County has 40 uncashed checks waiting for it in the New York State Comptroller’s office. “For confidentiality reasons I can’t tell you the exact amount, but the funds on all the claims range from less than $50 to several thousand dollars.” Emily DeSantis of the Comptroller’s office said.
According to NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a Queens Gazette report in Sept. ’08, a total of $9 billion in NY unclaimed money and property are just waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners- most of whom are unaware they’re have unclaimed funds in their name. This might include 440,000 resident retirees and disabled veterans who haven’t filed for their tax stimulus in the various counties of the Empire State. “Most people only need to file a tax return as they normally do,” Dianne Besunder, spokeswoman for the IRS says in Schenectady’s Daily Gazette. “We will calculate eligibility and payment amount. However, many retirees and veterans do not normally file a tax return because their benefits are not taxable. This year, they must file in order to receive an economic stimulus payment.”
Those that have heard about unclaimed property money usually don’t bother to check thinking it’s too much of a fuss. These are the reasons why the money is piling-up. On Monday this week, ABC’s WSYR helped dozens of Central New Yorkers find over $11,000 of their missing money. Four callers on “The Morning News” found-out they had at least $1,000 NY unclaimed money in their name.
The New York State’s Unclaimed Property Law require that lost assets in the hands of businesses and financial institutions be turned-over to the state after a ‘dormancy period’ of 2-5 years depending on the type of asset. The Empire State has one of the biggest fines (up to $50,000) for failure to ‘escheat’ or turn over abandoned assets. These can be uncashed checks and money orders, insurance policies, stock dividends, long-dormant bank accounts, safe deposit box contents and other financial assets. The state then holds on to them until the rightful owners show-up. There’s no time limit as to when owners of unclaimed money can claim their cash, but doing an unclaimed property search in New York would be the more sensible thing to do especially in light of a recent news report about a man getting arrested for stealing New York unclaimed money.
The North County Gazette reported July last year that an owner of a Brooklyn processing company was charged with defrauding over $32,000 New York unclaimed money from the state. He did this by posing as the rightful owners of the funds using personal confidential information like Social Security numbers which he had access to in his line of work. He was a licensed process server and CEO of the company. There was another case just last month in Delaware about an employee with the State government doing the same thing. Reports like this just stresses the urgency for people to do an unclaimed money search in New York and other states to check if they are owed cash that should be in their pockets and not going to those of other people’s.