How to Find Lost Money in an Old Bank Account
Searching your name online can lead to embarrassing photos, tweets and other parts of your past that you’d rather forget.
One type of search, however, can lead to something a lot more fun than a video or post you wish you never were a part of: searching online for money.
Maybe there’s a bank account out there somewhere with your name on it that you’ve long forgotten about. Or maybe your bank or credit union went out of business and you never withdrew your money before the account was closed.
It’s still legally your money and can be yours again if you claim it.
All it can take is searching for your name through your state’s unclaimed money website.
Another site, MissingMoney.com, is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators as a free way to search for unclaimed money in your name. If your name pops up, you can click on a link to go to your state’s website to file a claim.
What, Exactly, is Unclaimed Money?
Also called unclaimed property, this type of windfall can come from lost bank accounts, uncashed checks, insurance policy money, and safe deposit boxes. It could be an account in your name or one you inherited.
When a business or financial institution can’t find you, it has to turn over the property (money) to the state where the account was held. The state holds the money until you claim it.
Other forms of unclaimed money include:
- Property in states where you’ve lived
- Tax refunds that went undelivered
- Refund from FHA-insured mortgage
- Back wages
- Life insurance payout
- Savings bonds
- Owed money as an investor from failed company
Your state’s unclaimed property division can make finding those and other forms of lost money easy. Our focus is on bank accounts, though we’ll briefly get to other types of unclaimed money.
How to Find Old Bank Accounts
An easy way to start the search is at MissingMoney or clicking on a link to your state’s unclaimed property program.
If you’ve accessed the bank account within the past year, contact the bank for help. If you can’t remember the bank account number, you might be able to find it on old checks or account statements. Bank officials should be able to help you if you provide personal information.
If you haven’t touched the account in more than a year, go to your state’s unclaimed property division. Rules vary on how to prove ownership, but filling out an online form is usually the first step.
If you belonged to a credit union at one time, check the National Credit Union Administration’s website for unclaimed deposits.
Documents Needed to Make a Claim
After getting to your state’s unclaimed property website, which is run by the state treasury department, you’ll need to file a claim and prove who you say you are. Claims usually start online, though a mailed form may be needed instead.
To verify your identity, here are some of the documents you’ll probably need:
Driver’s license or other state-issued ID Social Security number proof, such as copy or your Social Security card or IRS Form W-2 Proof of address connected to property your claiming, such as an old utility bill Proof of current address Death certificate if claiming money on behalf of deceased relative Probate court order
Some states will require originals and others will accept copies to confirm you’re the rightful owner of the missing money.
How to File a Claim
As we’ve noted, some states allow online claims to be made. They may eventually lead to providing physical documents, but they’re at least a start.
Read the instructions carefully on your state’s website. Online submissions may only be allowed if you meet certain conditions.
California, for example, only allows online claims if the amount is less than $5,000 and the claimant is the sole owner.
Some states require printing the claim form and getting it notarized before mailing it in.
Wait for the Money to Roll in
If your claim is approved, expect it to take around two weeks to get a check in the mail. It could take six months.
You may not be told that a check is coming and that your claim has been approved, and may only learn of it when the check arrives.
State officials may do a search beyond your initial claim and any return more money to you than you originally asked for.
Avoid Scam Artists
During your search you may come across businesses that offer to retrieve your money for a cut of the amount recovered, such as 10-20%.
Don’t pay any fee upfront, according to an AARP story. If you work with such a company, agree to only pay it when you receive your money.
Anyone who claims to be part of the government and promises to send you unclaimed money for a fee is probably a scam artist. Government agencies won’t contact people about unclaimed money and they won’t charge a fee.
Other Types of Unclaimed Money
We earlier listed other forms of unclaimed money besides old bank accounts. The federal government is a good source for finding bank accounts and other types of unclaimed money.
Here are other ways to find missing money:
- Pension and retirement plans through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s unclaimed pension database.
- 401(k) and other retirement funds through the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
- Where’s My Refund? from the IRS
- Back wages through the Department of Labor
- Veterans Affairs database of unclaimed life insurance funds
- FHA-insured mortgage refund
- Bank failures listed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
- Matured savings bonds that have stopped earning interest
- Replace a lost or destroyed savings bond
That should be plenty of work to get you started finding lost money in your name. Just start searching and filing claims, and hopefully the checks will start rolling in.