SPRINGVILLE – Terry Johnston admitted she got several notices last fall from her bank, Wells Fargo, but they went unopened for several months. She should have opened them — it was the bank warning her that one of her four bank accounts had been inactive.
Inside that account was more than $130,000 – proceeds from the sale of a home in California. It was her life savings – money that she was deliberately not touching, she said.
When she did get around to calling Wells Fargo a few months later, she was shocked. They told her the account was closed and her money had been sent away.
"They said, 'Oh it's already been taken and it's up in Salt Lake City in the unclaimed property,'" she said. "I said, 'How can you call it unclaimed property? This is our account. We have three other active accounts with that bank.'"
Johnson was not initially worried. Utah's Unclaimed Property Division is a branch of the state treasurer's office that collects money from dormant accounts and holds it, waiting for it to be claimed by the rightful owner.
Still, Johnston's money seemed to have vanished. She checked on the website, mycash.utah.gov, and nothing came up.
She said she called the Utah Unclaimed Property Division and was told the money was not in their coffers.
After two months of checking for the money to show up, she began to panic and decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators.
"Find my money and give it back to me," she said. "It's mine, not theirs."
Utah State Treasurer David Damschen told KSL TV the same thing his staff told Johnston: The money never made it to their office.
But Damschen was able to track it down.
"We immediately went in, searched for the property, couldn't find it anywhere," he said. "As you might imagine, we have a lot of close relationships with banks so I called a senior manager at the bank and said, 'can you help us with this missing money situation?' The problem was solved within minutes."
It turns out the money was sitting in an account at the bank where money is collected as it is prepared to be sent to the Unclaimed Property Division, Damschen said. He said that such accounts are pretty common and serve an important function: making sure the money is properly attributed.
Just like that, the money was restored in Johnston's account, who learned an important lesson about putting off responding to letters she gets from her bank.
Closing inactive accounts is not something Wells Fargo, or any other bank, chooses to do. It's actually a law in place to make sure banks don't keep people's money after they die or after they forget about an account.
Wells Fargo told KSL TV that when an account is inactive for 23 months and they can't get in touch with the owner, they send it to the state treasurer.