$900M GOES UN­CLAIMED

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ANNA DOU­GLAS AND GAVIN OFF adou­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

The N.C. Trea­surer’s Of­fice is hold­ing money await­ing claims by res­i­dents.

The North Carolina Trea­surer’s Of­fice has ac­cu­mu­lated more than $900 mil­lion in un­claimed prop­erty — money wait­ing to be re­turned to res­i­dents and busi­nesses who are miss­ing checks, re­funds, stock shares and in­surance pay­outs.

How much does the state owe you?

The N.C. Cash Pro­gram — part of the state Trea­surer’s Of­fice — col­lects un­claimed prop­erty when busi­nesses, banks and govern­ment agen­cies can’t lo­cate the money’s rightful owner. By law, these cred­i­tors must make an ef­fort to reunite peo­ple with their money. If they can’t, they’re re­quired to hand the money over to the state.

In some cases, peo­ple have moved or changed phone num­bers. In other cases, the owner of the money has died, and it’s up to rel­a­tives or heirs to claim it.

After ex­plor­ing some 3 mil­lion en­tries in state’s un­claimed prop­erty data­base, the Char­lotte Ob­server called more than two dozen area res­i­dents to see if they knew North Carolina was hold­ing cash for them.

Sev­eral said they thought the call was a scam.

Not Kathryn Guy.

“It only took me a few min­utes (on­line) to ver­ify you were who you said you were,” Guy said.

After the Ob­server told Guy that she might be owed more than $6,000, she went to the N.C. Trea­surer’s web­site and saw her­self and her late hus­band listed.

“I just felt happy and sur­prised,” she said later. “It was just an un­ex­pected gift.”

Ac­cord­ing to an Ob­server anal­y­sis, more than 14,000 res­i­dents or busi­nesses have at least $6,000 wait­ing for them. About 100 are owed at least $100,000 — some in the form of stocks, shares, proceeds for ben­e­fi­cia­ries and monies left in for­got­ten sav­ings ac­counts.

The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple listed in the un­claimed prop­erty data­base are owed small dol­lar amounts.

The av­er­age claim: $325.

In Guy’s case, the money she claimed orig­i­nated from her late hus­band’s past em­ploy­ment and likely has been owed to her for al­most 20 years. After her claim is pro­cessed (which can take a week for sim­ple claims and more than a month for larger, com­plex ones), Guy will get a check in the mail.

Guy, a for­mer Char­lotte res­i­dent who now lives in Boone and is re­mar­ried, says she plans to put the new­found cash to­ward on­go­ing home ren­o­va­tions.

An­other woman, Su­san Brower of Char­lotte, learned re­cently from the Ob­server that she and her chil­dren are owed $3,579.

“I knew there were pro­grams out there, but I’d never checked my name,” she said.

The un­claimed prop­erty data­base shows Brower’s money comes from PNC Bank after a sav­ings ac­count was opened, then closed, in her and her two chil­dren’s names. Brower says she doesn’t re­mem­ber open­ing the ac­count but be­lieves it may have been a benev­o­lent ges­ture from the chil­drens’ grand­par­ents.

Her fam­ily plans to va­ca­tion in Florida this year, and Brower says she’d like to use the sur­prise cash for a spe­cial ex­cur­sion with her chil­dren, who are now in col­lege.

Like Guy and Bower, hun­dreds of peo­ple will likely re­claim their money this year.

Dur­ing fis­cal year 201617, the pro­gram re­turned some $452,000, records show. The year prior, it re­turned more than $800,000.

State of­fi­cials say the web­site is the big­gest tool the pro­gram uses to reach res­i­dents. State work­ers also run a booth at the North Carolina fair, where they let vis­i­tors search their names.

But trea­surer of­fi­cials could do more to get the word out, said Rick Er­land­son, 62.

The Char­lotte res­i­dent is owed about $17,000, some of the money dat­ing back to an in­surance pay­out from an car wreck about 15 years ago. He was un­aware of the cash pro­gram’s web­site un­til con­tacted by the Ob­server, Er­land­son said.

“The state needs to make this in­for­ma­tion known,” he said. “I had no clue this site ex­isted, and I wouldn’t have even known to look for it.”

Er­land­son said he be­gan the claims process and would likely put the money in sav­ings.

It’s not just in­di­vid­u­als but also busi­nesses, churches, and non­prof­its who have money wait­ing for them, the Ob­server found. For ex­am­ple, the trea­surer is hold­ing money for the Char­lotte Hor­nets (more than $8,000) and the Carolina Pan­thers (more than $2,000).

Churches, non­prof­its and even schools are sit­ting on hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars, records show.

North Carolina churches are owed some $900,000. Schools in the state are owed about $ 750,000. That in­cludes more than $40,000 await­ing Char­lotte-Meck­len­burg Schools.

After the Ob­server called CMS about the money owed to the school dis­trict, a spokespers­on said they’re work­ing on col­lect­ing the funds.

“The ac­count­ing depart­ment is in the process of com­plet­ing the nec­es­sary pa­per­work for the dis­trict to claim the funds, said Re­nee McKoy, a CMS spokespers­on.

In an­other in­stance, the Ob­server found 10 churches in Char­lotte owed more than $2,000. When a re­porter talked to John Spann Jr., chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Friend­ship Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church, he learned the church has more than

$5,000 it can claim.

“These are found bless­ings we can repurpose,” he said.

Friend­ship Mis­sion­ary will sub­mit pa­per­work to claim the money, Spann said, and put the funds to­ward mis­sion and ser­vice projects in the com­mu­nity.

Since Hur­ri­cane Florence struck North Carolina, the church has been fund­ing as­sis­tance pro­grams for peo­ple around the state. The money owed to the church through the N.C. Cash Pro­gram will most likely go to­ward that cause, Spann said.

THINGS TO KNOW:

You may claim a de­ceased rel­a­tive’s money. You’ll need a copy of the death cer­tifi­cate as well as proof you’re an heir (for ex­am­ple, listed in the will).

If you have un­claimed money, you’ve been help­ing out stu­dents.

North Carolina of­fi­cials in­vest the funds un­til claimed and the in­ter­est earned funds ed­u­ca­tional grants and loans.

Have you moved?

Proof of ad­dress is re­quired and that may be dif­fi­cult if you’ve moved since your money was re­mit­ted to the state. Two easy ways to prove your old ad­dress is the his­tory sec­tion of your cur­rent credit re­port or an old aca­demic tran­script.

Check the state’s data­base of­ten. The N.C. Cash Pro­gram reg­u­larly up­dates its un­claimed prop­erty data­base. State of­fi­cials rec­om­mend res­i­dents search their names sev­eral times a year.

It’s worth check­ing other states. Ev­ery state main­tains an un­claimed prop­erty pro­gram. Web­sites like Credit Karma and Miss­ingMoney.com have search­able data­bases.

It’s free. Be­ware of large “fin­der’s fees” or com­pa­nies promis­ing to help you cash in. There’s no fee as­so­ci­ated with claim­ing your money from North Carolina. While a pro­fes­sional fin­der’s ser­vices might be help­ful, it’s not nec­es­sary.

Visit nc­trea­surer.com/ Claim-Your-Cash for more in­for­ma­tion about un­claimed prop­erty. Money must be claimed di­rectly through the North Carolina Trea­surer’s Of­fice. The Char­lotte Ob­server is pro­vid­ing the in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic but is not able to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses in fil­ing their claims.

LM OTERO AP

The Depart­ment of State Trea­surer’s N.C. Cash Pro­gram re­ceives the money when busi­nesses, banks and govern­ment agen­cies fail to lo­cate the rightful own­ers. The pro­gram re­turned $452,000 in fis­cal year 2016-17, ac­cord­ing to records.

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