Do you have money waiting to be found?

You may be just a mouse click away from learning if the state has lost treasure in your name. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s Department of Financial Services holds unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1 billion.

Between record unemployment, the increasing use of food stamps, emergency cash assistance and government subsidies, Floridians are turning to the Internet in search of missing or unclaimed property. With over $33 billion in unclaimed funds nationwide, the most popular search terms on Google, Yahoo, Bing and AOL are “missing money” and “unclaimed funds.” Even social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have pages on how to find missing money.

Since the program’s inception in 1961, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has reunited owners or heirs of deceased owners with more than $1.6 billion in unclaimed property held in Florida. Having hosted 1.5 million visitors on their website while receiving and responding to 96,668 customer service calls, the bureau processed and paid over $188 million in claims for fiscal year 2009/2010, an increase of almost $15 million over the prior year’s record.

Now holding over $1 billion in approximately 9.9 million claimable accounts, unclaimed property originates from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings.

Unclaimed property also includes tangible items such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes. A recent deposit to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property included $29 million from the FDIC and a record-shattering 153,151 unclaimed accounts following the collapse of Washington Mutual Bank.

CFO Jeff Atwater reminds Floridians of an interactive claims service making it easier to recover treasure held in the Bureau of Unclaimed Property.

“In these tough economic times, Floridians have to account for every penny,” said Atwater. “I encourage all Floridians to visit our web site at With nearly ten million accounts, the chances are good we are holding cash or property for you, your business, or someone you know.”

Quite a surprise for a South Florida couple who attended CFO Atwater’s open house after the inauguration; they found $6,000 in unclaimed money stashed within the bureau. During the open house, employees with the bureau identified a total of $3,436.87 in claims for visitors. One visitor from Pensacola filed a claim for more than $1,400.

Florida is one of forty states that participate in a program endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, an organization that proactively seeks owners of missing and unclaimed property.

By visiting or an individual can determine whether they are entitled to unclaimed funds. When searching, be sure to check each state that you have resided and under each name you have used. Also search for deceased relatives as heirs are often surprised to learn something has been left behind by the dearly departed.

In minutes, one can determine whether they are entitled to missing money or property in Florida. Visit the Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s website at or call toll-free 1-88-VALUABLE (888-258-2253).

If you find a match, an online claims form can be completed, printed, and mailed with supporting documentation for processing. Although there is no statute of limitations on making a claim, the bureau does not pay interest on accounts.

If you are contacted by search firm advising they have located funds and will process a claim on your behalf, politely decline and search the bureau registry yourself. Most states, including Florida, do not charge a fee to recover unclaimed property. There is no reason to pay for something you can do yourself in mere minutes and at the price of a postage stamp.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune – Media General Group

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

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