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California Holds More than $10 Billion in Lost Money. Some May Be Yours

“It's uncashed paychecks, inactive bank accounts, insurance benefits, safe-deposit box contents,” said a state controller’s office spokeswoman

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California’s state controller is holding more than $10 billion in unclaimed property, which is why people are being encouraged to check the online database to see if they have any lost money or other valuables.

“It’s uncashed paychecks, inactive bank accounts, insurance benefits, safe-deposit box contents,” said Jennifer Hanson, press secretary at the state controller’s office. “Your grandma may have bought Treasury bonds in your name that you never knew about and they were sitting there for years. We will have them sitting there waiting for you to claim.”

When a company has money that belongs to you but doesn’t hear from you for years, that money is reported to the state through a process known as escheatment. Hanson said they now have 57 million unclaimed properties.

“One in three Californians who visit the site have property to claim,” Hanson said. “We just need to prove identity and ownership.”

It’s not always a major windfall. Sometimes the properties are very small, but it’s always worth checking.

“I have one pending that's going to be under $25,” Hanson said, “but then we’ve had folks who find out they had hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Of the 57 million lost properties held by the state controller, more than 2.3 million of them have San Diego addresses on file. Hanson said that people should check the database out and check it on behalf of relatives while they do so.

“In many cases, you can file online without any additional work,” Hanson said.

There are people who make a living by searching these databases and contacting people who have large sums of lost property. They often say they can file for you in exchange for a fee. Hanson said it’s entirely legal for them to do so, but you can do it on your own as well.

“If you get a call like that, you should reach out directly to the state controller’s office,” Hanson said. “We’re happy to help you find that property, help explain how to file a claim, and we will never charge a fee. One hundred percent of your property will go back to you.”

Hanson said that if you’re searching the database, try common misspellings of your name. If someone entered it incorrectly, that could be the reason it ended up at the state controller’s office. Then, match it up and see if it links to an address you have lived at to see if it might be your lost money.

In addition to searching the database at the state controller’s office, you can also look at the county’s unclaimed monies list. It’s a different process and system than escheatment, but you have until Dec. 17 to see if your name appears. After that, the money will be sent to the county’s general fund.

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