SALT LAKE CITY — Who wouldn’t enjoy some unexpected extra cash in their holiday stocking this year?
The Utah Division of Unclaimed Property has more than $375 million in funds and properties waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners or their descendants. Much of that is property reported to the state with outdated information.
Along with states nationwide, Utah adopted the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act in 1956 to ensure that abandoned or lost property was turned over to state government for safekeeping and reclaim — not kept permanently by companies, employers, service providers and others, explained state Treasurer David Damschen.
Examples include uncashed payroll checks, dormant bank accounts, overpaid bills or contents of security deposit boxes, he added.
“This is one of my favorite jobs as state treasurer because it’s a bit like playing Santa Claus,” Damschen said. “Maybe you moved and forgot you had a utility deposit or didn’t leave a forwarding address on an old account. Checking to see if you’ve lost property is simple, easy and something everyone should do for themselves, their families and friends, especially this time of year.”
Damschen said his office typically pays out about $20 million in unclaimed property each year to residents who have contacted the division after being made aware of their lost property.
Lost or abandoned property turned over to the state is searchable online at mycash.utah.gov. Despite a threefold increase in the amount of payouts made over the past few years, the agency continues to hold hundreds of millions of unclaimed cash and property.
“We’re still paying out about half of what comes in,” Damschen said. “It is a constant effort to get the word out and making sure we get the money back to its rightful owner.”
In 2015, a record $22.5 million was paid out to owners or their descendants who filed claims, Damschen said. He attributed the increase to the launch of the simplified website and updated marketing campaign, which fueled a 107 percent increase in Utah’s paid claims volume.
However, the state takes in between $30 million and $40 million each year, meaning there are still many people with unclaimed property out there, Damschen said.
“I’d love to pay out every single dollar that we take in if we can,” he said. “That’s our focus.”
Damschen suggested that people check the website periodically for themselves and others they may know. For those who may have lived in other states at some point, there is also a national database, missingmoney.com, were individuals can check for unclaimed property, he noted.
And other states may have their own websites as well, Damschen said.
The websites makes it easier for residents to search for — and collect — money that might be theirs, he added.
“All that stands between you and money you’ve lost is a simple online search or phone call,” said Dennis Johnston, Utah Division of Unclaimed Property administrator. “The average amount awaiting reclaim is over $400, which would cover a lot of holiday expenses.”
For more information, contact the division at 801-715-3300.