It sounds like a scam: "Does the government owe you money?" and "Are you missing money owed to you?"--and there are charlatans who try to take advantage of people with this tactic--but there really are legitimate places you can find unclaimed money owed to you. Money you weren't even aware you were missing.
According to the National Taxpayers Union, nearly 100,000 Americans are legally owed refunds from the IRS but are missing out on their piece of the $150+ million pie. There's over $58 billion in unclaimed money total owed to thousands of us, My Dollar Plan says.
But there are scammers aplenty, so the key is to only do your search for unclaimed money in your name on reputable sites, rather than clicking through on emailed phishing schemes and the like. State and Federal government agency sites (domains ending in .gov) and independent, non-profit organizations are your best bet.
My Dollar Plan has listed a few of these sites:
- MissingMoney.com, which searches and links to state and provincial websites for unclaimed property and money.
- FDIC Unclaimed Funds: funds owed to customers due to failed banks
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: unclaimed pensions
- National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits: retirement account balances forgotten or abandoned
- National Taxpayers Union: IRS tax refund checks returned to the IRS
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators: money owed to you held by the state and local governments
- TreasuryDirect: unclaimed savings bonds (apparently there are billions of dollars in savings bonds that have stopped earning interest but haven't been cashed yet)
You'll want to check these databases for money in not just your name, but variations of it and in different states you've lived in, as well as money that could possibly be owed to your family members. When I did this a couple of months ago, I found nothing in either my name or my maiden name, but $79 owed to my husband by an electric company. (Hey, when we got the check from NY State, that was dinner out!)
YMMV, of course, but it's worth a shot. Check out My Dollar Plan for more tips on conducting an effective "missing money" search.
Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.