Unclaimed Funds – The Great Florida Treasure Hunt

With record unemployment, the growing popularity of food stamps, emergency cash assistance, and government subsidies, more and more people are turning to the Internet in search of lost or forgotten money.  With over $33 billion in unclaimed funds nationwide, the fastest growing search terms on Google and Yahoo have been “unclaimed money” and “missing money.” 

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink reminds Floridians of an online claims system making it easier to recover funds held in the Bureau of Unclaimed Property.  Now holding in excess of $1 billion, the unclaimed property comes 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.

Since the program’s inception 49 years ago, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property has successfully reunited owners or heirs of deceased owners with more than $1.4 billion in unclaimed property held in Florida.  Accounting for almost 45 percent of the money returned since the start of the program, CFO Alex Sink has successfully reunited owners, heirs and businesses with more than $630 million during her tenure.  In fact, almost $45 million in unclaimed property was returned in the months of February and March alone.

 “In these tough economic times it’s important that Floridians account for every dollar,” said CFO Sink. “I encourage all Floridians to visit our web site at www.FLTreasureHunt.org. With nearly nine million accounts, the chances are good we are holding cash or property for you, your business, or someone you know.”

In less than a minute you can determine whether you or a deceased relative is entitled to unclaimed funds or property in Florida.  For more information and to check if you are owed unclaimed funds, visit the Bureau of Unclaimed Property’s website at www.FLTreasureHunt.org or call toll-free (888) 258-2253.  If you find a match and believe the property is yours, an online claim form can be completed, printed, and mailed with supporting documentation for immediate processing.  You have the right to claim your property at any time and without cost.  Although there is no statute of limitations on making a claim, the Bureau of Unclaimed Property does not pay interest on accounts.

Florida is not the only state that has an unclaimed property bureau.  Forty states participate in a program officially endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, an organization that proactively seeks owners of missing and unclaimed property.   At www.MissingMoney.com  or www.Unclaimed.org you can quickly determine whether you are entitled to unclaimed funds by clicking on a participating state and entering your name.  Be sure to search each state that you have resided and under every name you have used.  Also search for deceased family members as heirs are sometimes very surprised to learn what has been left behind by their dearly departed.

A word to the wise when searching for unclaimed funds or property – most states, including Florida – do not charge a fee to recover unclaimed property.  There is no reason to pay a search firm for something you can do yourself in mere minutes at zero cost.  If you are approached by company advising that they have located property in your name and will process a claim on your behalf, politely decline and search the bureau registry yourself.

Some of the more notable Floridians the Bureau of Unclaimed Property are holding funds for:  Congresswoman Corrine Brown, former US Senator Mel Martinez, former Miami Dolphin Dan Marino, Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, and Florida Attorney General candidates Dan Gelber and Pam Bondi.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/may/17/unclaimed-funds-great-florida-treasure-hunt/news-newbusiness/


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.

Stop Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls

Are you receiving annoying or harassing phone calls from telemarketers or debt collectors? In these tough economic times, your telephone seems to ring more often. There are actions you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive. First, you must determine whether the caller is a telemarketer attempting to solicit a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a past due bill.

To stop most telemarketers from calling your home or cell phone, you must sign up through the Do Not Call Registry offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Registration can be made online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222 from the number in which you seek to block.

The national Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to restrict most telemarketing calls received on your home or cell number. Once you register, telemarketers covered by registry rules have up to 31 days to remove your phone number from their calling lists. Should the telemarketing calls continue, you have a right to file a complaint with the FTC.

The Federal Trade Commission says that “because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request.”

Distinguished from the telemarketer, is the debt collector. If you owe a past-due bill, debt collectors have the right to call you – but not harass you. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a federal law that prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.

There are many types of debts covered by the FDCPA. Personal, family, household debts, auto loans, medical bills, and even your mortgage are all protected under the law. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts incurred to run or operate a business.

Some of the most common questions about debt collectors and consumer rights can be answered by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov. Although the FTC will not normally intercede on behalf of an individual consumer, they act as a clearing house for complaints and have been known to initiate legal action against the most abusive collectors in the industry.

Should a Florida resident have a complaint about abusive debt collection tactics, they can file a complaint through the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), the state agency in charge of debt collectors, at www.flofr.com. In this instance, the OFR will open a file and forward the complaint to the offending agency.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can take legal action.

“You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated,” the FTC said. “If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.”

Whether you receive an annoying or harassing call from a telemarketer soliciting a product or charity, or a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, you can stop your phone from ringing by simply learning your rights.

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.