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Checking for unclaimed money is simple and worth it


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SANDY — In need of a little extra cash for the holidays? You might have some unclaimed money tucked away with the State of Utah.

Banks, investment funds, landlords and others who have someone's money and presumably can't find the owner send the money to Utah's Unclaimed Property Division. The money sits there until the owner claims it.

Currently, the state is holding onto hundreds of millions of dollars worth of forgotten property and money. Rick Nofsinger, from Sandy, learned staking your claim can be pretty simple.

A KSL story prompted Nofsinger to check out mine.utah.gov. He simply typed in his name and discovered he had money coming to him. All he needed to provide was more information to confirm his identity.

"I filled that out and within a few more days I had a check," he said.

The check was for hundreds of dollars. Rick said it could not have come at a better time.

"I would like to say I had fun with it and just blew it on something, but I actually paid bills with it," he said.

Utah's Unclaimed Property Division runs the website. The division employs six people to investigate, searching through databases trying to find rightful owners. Last year, the division reunited some $14 million worth of cash and property to its owners or their heirs.

However, that's less than 5 percent of what it's holding onto in currency, coins, jewelry, stock certificates, military medals, an early Michael Jordan basketball card, silver certificates dating back to the 1930s, and other kinds of property.

"We're looking for the surviving family members," said Dennis Johnston, division administrator.

How to check

Some of the property has been sitting in safety deposit boxes for decades.

"It went dormant. After a period of time the banks drilled into the boxes, turned the property over to us, and then we're tasked with finding the proper owners," Johnston said.

The state is holding onto more than $375 million in such property and cash that has not been claimed. Johnston said he's seen claims from as low as $5 to as high as six-digit territory. The state will hold onto that property forever. Anytime an owner comes forward, it's available.

Utahns may want to check to see if the names of their grandparents or great-grandparents are in that database.

"Sometimes people don't tell all the relatives about their accounts. When their estates are settled, sometimes they'll miss items. They'll go dormant, then they'll come to us," Johnston explained.

Nofsinger believes his returned money stemmed from a workman's compensation payout when he injured his back 28 years ago. He didn't ask the division where the money actually came from.

"I should have delved into it more," he said. "I was just so excited I had money and they were willing to give it to me in a short period of time that I really didn't care."

The division does take some of the more tangible property — such as silver certificates, jewelry, sports trading cards — to auction. All the proceeds are kept for the rightful owner.

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Bill Gephardt

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