Database connects misplaced money with Alaskan owners

Juneau Empire

JUNEAU, Alaska — We all know the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s how Lisa White felt when a friend told her about, a website that claims to connect people with long-lost checks.

But, as White found, the site is legit — the Alaska Department of Revenue uses it to keep track of the approximately $83 million in unclaimed funds it holds on to, DOR special assistant Lacy Wilcox said. Alaska is one of 45 states that links its coffers of unclaimed checks to the site.

When White found out about, she did a search for her own name. No luck there, but a search for her father and brother yielded more than $5,000 in old checks waiting to be claimed. Her dad’s checks were from an 80-year-old insurance policy, but his birth state was still holding on to them, White said.

Although they were skeptical at first, White’s father and brother both successfully claimed their checks, she said. The website gives simple directions on how to claim funds from the state.

“It is really hard to trust, but our family has tried it,” White said.

In 2012, Alaskans were reunited with more than $4 million in unclaimed property, kept in the state’s vaults, Alaska Unclaimed Property manager Rachel Lewis said.

She said checks are lost in a “variety of ways.”

“Moving and not changing addresses, stuck in magazines or other mail, misplaced, washed, accidentally thrown away,” Lewis said. “We had someone say, after a windy, snowy day, they accidentally ran it through their snow blower.”

But how does the state come to possess these checks?

“Every company in the United States with uncashed payroll, vendor, over-payment, rental or utility deposits or refunds, insurance reimbursements and policy checks must remit these items to the state of the last known address of the owner,” Lewis said. “Types of property remitted also include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, dividend reinvestment plans and contents of safe deposit boxes.”

White said she did searches for friends and extended family, and even figured out how to search for businesses and fishing vessels by entering the business or fishing vessel name in the “last name” box. She said she recently found someone she knows in Juneau with 26 unclaimed checks, and gave him a call right away to let him know.

“I may not have found any money on the website for myself, but it’s a pretty great feeling to be able to tell others that they have money that is rightfully theirs, waiting for them to claim,” White said.

Companies remit property to the state around Nov. 1 of each year, Lewis said.

“All year long we process claims to reunite owners with their unclaimed property,” she said.

Wilcox said she herself checks

“I even go and check my friends and family every six months,” she said. “When I have a little free time I’ll go look for legislators and staff and coworkers. There are some pretty cool stories of people finding a lot of money.”

White said she searches the site as an way to do something nice for other people.

“Everyone who looks on it can pay it forward,” she said. “There’s a lot of people who’d appreciate it.”

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