Wasting Time on the Internet Pays Off

find-moneyUpdate: I originally published this post in February, 2008, but this past weekend I discovered that I have almost $400 in my state’s unclaimed property fund. I am not quite sure how it got there. The state says the money was turned in by PayPal, and PayPal has all of my current contact information. I am assuming that someone tried to send me money but had my email address wrong. Rather than compare my contact info (which they had with the payment) to other accounts, PayPal just turned it over to the state.

Don’t assume that if you don’t recall any money owed to you, or if you haven’t moved or changed any accounts recently that there are no payments waiting for you. Take a few minutes and check.

Now we return you to our original post…

My mother-in-law called today to tell me she got a check for more than $300. And it was all because of some time I wasted on the Internet one day.

As usual, I don’t remember what my original purpose was, but in surfing around I came across a site where you could search for unclaimed funds. You may know that if a company is holding funds that belong to you, they eventually turn them over to the state escheat fund. The money may be owed because you did not cash a check that was written to you, or you forgot about a bank account, or are owed money on an old insurance policy or claim, or many other reasons.

The organization that owes you the money, and the state, are supposed to make reasonable efforts to locate you but they often do not. You may see special sections in your newspaper once a year when your state publishes the names of people for whom they are holding funds. But you can take action today to find money that you may be owed.

A warning: There are people who will notify you that you are owed money and ask you to sign papers so that they can claim it for you. They usually take a percentage of your money. A better way is to find out where the money is and file the claim yourself.

Here are some web sites where you can search for your money:

You can start your search at http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Money_Owed.shtml. This is a Federal government web site, and it lists several reasons why the government might owe you money, how to find it, and how to claim it.

After clicking a couple of links from that site, I found http://www.missingmoney.com/. This is where I located the money owed to my mother-in-law. Only 39 states participate in the MissingMoney site, so you may want to check other states individually. You can find links at http://www.unclaimed.org/. Don’t forget to search in states where you used to live, as well as where you live now.

Along the same lines, do not forget to search under other names you have used, for example your maiden name or your name during a previous marriage.

You can see if you are owed pension funds from a former employer here: https://search.pbgc.gov/.

Did you have an FHA or HUD home loan? If you paid it off early, you may be due a refund of some of your mortgage insurance premiums. Check here to find out: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/comp/refunds/index.cfm.

Happy hunting! Who says that surfing the web is a waste of time?


  1. Cathy Stucker says

    It doesn’t hurt to look, and it only takes a few minutes. You never know what you will find.

    Also check under business names. If you had a utility deposit or bank account in a business name, there may be funds owed to that business.

  2. says

    This is an excellent idea. In the town where I grew up there is a bank account that was opened for me when I was a wee lad. I wonder if it is still there and what twenty years in interest comes to.

    I did a quick search in lost cash (dot) ca and found nothing on there. I guess I am just going to have to make a physical appearance to see if I have anything in there.

  3. says


    This indeed does work. About 7 years ago my wife and I received over $2,800 we had left in escrow from a refinance. Again, the financial institutions had all the requisite contact info, but we didn’t get the money until I was wasting time on the Internet.

    That was right about the time there were commercials running purporting to help people collect form the state for a fee, despite the fact it is normally not even legal to do so. I ran a blog post telling the story on my financial blog at the time. Needless to say, the money was a very nice surprise!
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  4. says


    Thanks for this post. I also found something from paypal and clickbank from a former address. The funny thing was that I had received a lawyer’s letter mentioning clickbank money owed but when I called clickbank they said that nothing was owed to me. I guess they had turned it over already to the state.

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