Each year, a ridiculous amount of assets go “missing” in the United States. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), there was $32.9 billion worth of unclaimed cash just sitting around in treasuries and other agencies because no one showed up to claim it. How could such a massive amount of money get lost and how do you know if any of it belongs to you? Losing money may be easier than you think but there are many free ways to find and reclaim it.

How does missing money get lost?

Okay, so we all occasionally discover a misplaced bill or two in an old pants pocket, but how do people actually lose large amounts of money? Well, it happens in several ways. Some of them include old bank accounts that people forget about, not realizing they still contain a little cash that’s just been sitting there earning interest.

Unclaimed money may also be hiding on an old credit card that you vowed to stop using after you finally got it paid off. Occasionally, people get so gung-ho about paying off their credit cards that they accidentally go a little overboard and send in more than the required amount. After casting the card in question aside, it never occurs to them to check the balance, so they never realize that it’s actually positive in their favor.

Then, there’s the long lost rich uncle scenario that we all secretly fantasize about. What most of us don’t take into account is that if a relative passes away and leaves you a sum of money, the executor of their estate may not always know how to contact us. This can also happen with life insurance policies where the money exists but no one is quite sure how to contact the beneficiary.

Lost money can also be created by a variety of other mishaps that stem from back wage pay, legal settlements, pensions, and other situations. In each scenario, money may never be claimed simply because no one was aware that it belonged to them.

Where to find lost money

Okay, so there may be a chance that you have some money out there with your name on it. But that doesn’t do you a lot of good if you don’t know how to find it. So next we’ll break down several ways to go hunting for lost treasure that you may have forgotten was already yours.

  • Start at the state level: If you’re curious to see whether you’ve got any unclaimed funds floating around out there, then the state level is a great place to start. Each state has its own website that will allow residents to search for missing funds, so check out the free state by state directory at the NAUPA. Alternatively, you can head over to MissingMoney and run a search by entering your name and state. Such searches can help you find missing money from old bank accounts, insurance policies, pension payments, and more. If you’ve moved within the past few years, then be sure to run searches in both your current state and others you have previously lived in.
  • Old bank accounts: If you’ve ever used a bank that ended up going under, you may still be able to retrieve your old deposits. Just run a search on the FDIC’s Unclaimed Funds finder to see if you may be eligible to claim insured funds or assets. If you’ve been a part of a Credit Union that was liquidated, then you can run a similar search for unclaimed funds with the National Credit Union Administration.
  • Back Wages: Think your old employer might have forgotten something? It could be that you’re owed back wages, even if you no longer work for them. Find out by heading over to the Department of Labor to run a free check. If you do find any extra back pay that you’re still owed, you’ll be able to file a claim and get your hard earned cash.
  • Double check your tax return: Wouldn’t it be great to discover that the IRS owes you money instead of the other way around? To check and see if this could be the case, head over to their Where’s My Refund page, enter a little information, and see what you can turn up.
  • Savings bonds: Savings bonds are notoriously great gifts for babies, despite the fact that infants are generally horrible at keeping up with them. If you think there’s a chance that you might have once had one that’s since been forgotten or gone missing, you can always check with the Treasury. Unfortunately, you’ll have to resort to snail mail, but if you send them a 1048 Form, they’ll look into it for you and alert you to any long lost bonds you may have in your name.

Where not to look

As important as it is to know where you can find lost money, it can be even more important to know where not to look. Because of the fact that missing money is a reality for so many people, there are a number of scammers out there who are willing to take advantage of the situation. If anyone offers to help you locate missing funds for a nominal fee, then run screaming into the night. If you do have lost money out there, there are many different ways to find it and all of them are free.