unclaimed money

Mass. Has $3.4B in Unclaimed Money. These People Want to Help Give It Back

Massachusetts has $3.4 billion worth of unclaimed property, like forgotten bank accounts, unpaid wages, and uncashed dividends and checks, waiting to be returned to the rightful owners

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We’re all struggling to make ends meet these days. So wouldn’t a little windfall be nice?

The Massachusetts Treasury returned over $174 million to people last year and they have billions more waiting to be claimed.

Reginald Steele is the lead investigator with the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office Unclaimed Property Division. His job is to track people down to give them money.

"In my past experiences at other positions, my investigations ended with someone being arrested or someone losing their job," said Steele. "Here at the end of investigation, I'm handing someone a check."

And he has plenty of work to do because Massachusetts has $3.4 billion worth of unclaimed property, like forgotten bank accounts, unpaid wages, and uncashed dividends and checks.

"The big money is life insurance policies, shares of stock, matured CDs, checking accounts," said Christina Lambert, director of publication and external relations at the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Division.  "Anyone can have unclaimed money.   The older you are, the more likely you are to have unclaimed property."

To check, just go to Findmassmoney.com, type in your name and search.  Collecting the cash is an easy process if it’s in your name.

“There is a fast track process if you enter your social security number,” said Lambert. "If it's a match, it will auto-approve you and you will get your check in about 15 business days.”

But it takes longer if you are making a claim in someone else’s name.

"There will be additional documents required if you're not claiming for yourself," she said. "So, if you're claiming for an estate, a deceased relative, a trust,  we do require appointments from probate court death certificates."

Mary Ellen Mazzola of Sharon recently found money from the University of Denver, where she attended school 30 years ago.

"Apparently back when I was in grad school, I somehow overpaid by $200 and they held onto it all this time," said Mazzola.  "It was a nice little surprise, it’s just funny that’s it’s been so long."

Last fall, Steele’s team set up at the Big E in West Springfield and returned over half a million dollars to fairgoers who checked their names in the state database.

“I find satisfaction in digging into something that's been in our system 10, 20, 30 years and trying to find that person,” said Steele. "You know, we had an account for the president of a public university that was in our system for over 30 years. And it was able to track her down and get that money back to her."

Steele recently returned $50,000 dollars to a woman and her son in England.

"Her husband had died in the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland," he said. "His friends set up this money for his son. They lost track of it, forgot about it. But now, you know, we were able to reunite this money to those people."

And he returned a large sum to an elderly man whose wife was ill.

"She was in a hospice center. He wanted to bring her home,” said Steele. "And we were able to hand him that check for $16,000.  I got a beautiful letter from him a little while later he said,  'I was able to bring my wife home,' so when you hear a story like that, it really, you know, makes you realize how important the work you're doing is."

And on the flip side, believe it or not, some people are not in a rush to claim their cash.

“Sometimes, people just aren't in a place right now that they are able to complete the process,” said Steele. "Maybe they're mourning the loss of someone and they don't want to deal with that person's estate."

“I've dealt with a very well-known professor in his field who's had hundreds of thousand dollars turned over to us.  And he doesn't really seem to have that much interest in money. He concentrates on his field and that's it," he said.  "There's still quite a bit of money in our system for him."

This money remains with the state until someone claims it. And they advise you to check your name at Findmassmoney.com twice a year, since they are always getting more property in.

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