SPOKANE, Wash. — UPDATE: The Washington State Department of Revenue’s Unclaimed Property (UCP) program broke a record, returning an all-time high of $138.9 million in unclaimed property back to thousands of Washingtonians this past year.
Original story below:
We all know the feeling, when you find money in your pocket you never knew you had. Well, the Department of Revenue in Washington State could actually have some of your money that you didn't know you had.
The department is holding onto unclaimed cash and property belonging to more than one million Washington residents. Unclaimed property is a program within the Department of Revenue to protect you the consumer.
"It's kind of fun to kind of convince people, 'hey, you know, this is not a scam. This is money that's owed to you.' And you know, they're, they're really surprised,” Joe Gisler said.
Gisler is the Unclaimed Property Claims and Outreach Manager. He said the purpose of the program is to be a consumer protection, so businesses don’t just write off money.
"Any money that maybe a business may have owed you and they could not get it to you,” Gisler said. "Otherwise, if it stays with the business, they may never know that they had that money.”
So how much money are we talking about? Gisler said the Department of Revenue currently holds about $1.8 billion in unclaimed property they are looking to return to the rightful owner.
"The average claim amount is about $131," Gisler said. "We have some claims that are over $1 million dollars, and then we have, claims that are $5."
The agency acts as a place for Washingtonians to have a central repository. After one to three years, a business or a government entity has to send the money to the Department of Revenue to hold until it's matched to the consumer.
How to find out if you have unclaimed cash
- Visit ClaimYourCash.org and navigate to the property search page
- Type your name to search for property
- Select your property and click claim
KREM 2's Tim Pham tracked down a Spokane family who is owed hundreds of dollars. We walked Jeff and Kathy through the process and learned they each had money waiting to be claimed.
"I definitely was surprised. And then I was really surprised to see who the money was coming from,” Jeff said.
Jeff had $400 waiting to be claimed from his former employer and a medical bill he overpaid.
Where does unclaimed cash come from?
The Department of Revenue receives unclaimed property from many places, the most common are closed bank accounts, uncashed checks, utility deposits, money orders, credit balances, stocks and dividends, refunds, or rebates.
"I feel like, they should just send it to people, right? It's our money in our name, they should, you know, send a postcard and just say, ‘you know, is this you?’ And if so, you know, send this and then boom, you're good,” Kathy said.
We brought Kathy’s question to the Department of Revenue to see if they could reach out to people and notify them. Gisler said a lot of the property requires documentation.
“We would like a signed claim form a copy of photo ID, those kinds of things, but then, people's names change people move. So it is not the easiest thing in the world to, just refund money to people, because it does take a lot of work,” he explained.
However, in January 2023, the agency launched a match program to try and reunite people with their money. So far, they’ve sent out about 2,000 checks to Washingtonians after verifying their ownership.
Because of KREM 2’s report Jeff and Kathy’s family received $1,000, a few simple clicks to newfound ‘riches.’
“We’ll probably retire? No, I don't know, maybe go out to dinner or something. It's, it's a nice little hit and happy to get it,” Jeff said.
Most states offer an unclaimed property program. For more information about unclaimed property in Idaho, click here to visit their website.
Let KREM 2’s Tim Pham know how much money you are expecting to receive, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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