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 NC 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 new-found 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 2016-17, 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 non-profits 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 from the state.
“These are found blessings we can re-purpose,” 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 who need help. The money owed to the church through the NC 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 NC Cash Program regularly updates its unclaimed property database. State officials recommend residents search their names several times a year. The Observer-maintained database is current through April 2019.
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.