STUMP » Articles » Escheatment: Looking for change in the couch cushions » 17 August 2014, 19:01

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Escheatment: Looking for change in the couch cushions  


17 August 2014, 19:01

One of my lj friends posted something that reminded me to check my paypal balance. It's never very much, but I forget about it sometimes. (holy crap, there's $27 in there… I've really let it ride — transferred! Thanks, wombat!)

Thing is, back in the day, there were certain places you'd look for loose change and paper bills. Couches. The floorboards of the car.  In old jacket pockets.

That sort of thing.

But now in the e-account economy, I've got all sorts of random cash hanging out. Recently, I just got about $110 back via the office of unclaimed funds. About $50 of this, I know what it was from: when I had to cancel a Netflix account b/c the USPS kept munging up the DVDs. (THAT WAS BACK IN 1999… 15 YEARS AGO!) The other $60… no clue. Something with Chase, evidently. Look, I was in a bunch of really odd situations …wait, I still am. Anyway, I wouldn't be terribly shocked to hear I salted away $10K somewhere and had forgotten about it.

There's something interesting going on with the unclaimed funds in NY, btw.  There's two sides: the obvious is that the comptroller of the state might be able to get some good feelings from people like me who get their own money back. (SUCKER) Of all states, I think NY is the one that has the clearest cursus honorum — if you want to make it to governor, you stop at one of these interim positions like comptroller or head of the department of Financial Services, then you become AG, then governor. If you're Lt. Gov., you're definitely a sucker. That's not a stepping stone to the highest office here.

But there's this other bit called escheatment. It means that unclaimed funds ultimately devolve to the state. There's a sub rosa brou-ha-ha going on in life insurance right now over that sort of thing (no, I'm not going to write about that, because it's my day job and I don't undercut my da yjob).  That NetFlix refund would have gone to the state of NY for their general revenue if I hadn't claimed it by December. While I cancelled the account in 1999 or 2000, they didn't declare it defunct until, I think, 2009.  After 5 years, the amount is escheated to the state.

Isn't that sweet?

States are desperate for funds right now, and they'd rather have the funds coming from something less obvious than direct taxes. That can have electoral repercussions.

So they, like me, have been shaking out the couch cushions, looking to see if there are sources of revenue they missed.  Some states have gotten really aggressive on escheatment of late, reducing the period before funds are taken over, and by going directly after companies like insurers who might not report unclaimed funds as rapidly as the states would like (they can't start that escheatment clock until the unclaimed funds are reported).

I know most people have this sort of thing under their radar, but this is an area I keep close tabs on. I thought people might find it of interest.

Also, check out your own state's department that covers unclaimed funds. I've actually tried to claimed the Netflix account before, but because it originally required statements I no longer had (ffs, it was 1999, and I don't own that email account any more, much less still own that private mailbox), I had to let it lie. But evidently the comptroller decided it was better PR to make the process go easier for people like me. It makes fraud easier, but it is quite labor-intensive if you intend fraud. And for all that work, you might get only $50.

So see if you have money hanging out there that's yours. Here's a good place to start searching.

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