State warns residents not to pay “finder’s fees” to collect unclaimed funds

DAYTON, N.Y. (WIVB) – Christine Matthews of Dayton just learned about New York’s Unclaimed Funds, a $13 billion treasure chest that belongs to private citizens–it is not taxpayer funds–and she wanted to see if any of that money is hers.

While New York’s Office of the State Comptroller welcomes inquiries, and will return any “lost money” to its rightful owner, Matthews mistakenly contacted a “finder”–they charge a fee to find your money–and Christine said the finder, based in Las Vegas, asked for money right up front.

“They did not describe themselves as finders either. So I didn’t know what they were called. I thought I was dealing with the state.”

Christine
Christine Matthews of Dayton (right) and friend.

Before the finder would even start Christine’s search, they charged her $24.90, then forced her to sign up for a discount travel club with a monthly subscription.

“For discounts on hotels, and travel, and movies, and so forth. You had to sign up for those, and getting monthly fees for those, in order to get the finding service done.”

All told, Matthews would be paying more than $70 per month for services she did not want or need.

Christine knew the state will return your unclaimed funds without charging a fee, so she turned to a friend Angie Mardino-Miller, for guidance.

Mardino-Miller was suspicious from the start, “I said if they are going to ask you for money, that does not feel comfortable for me. Then she looked at me with a look on her face that I knew what the next statement was going to be: She said they already have.”

Taking Angie’s advice, Christine contacted Call 4 Action, and a troubleshooter guided her to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office. DiNapoli warned News 4 viewers on Monday to watch out for “finders”.

“Sometimes a business may contact you and say, for a 15% fee I will get money from the Comptroller’s office,” said DiNapoli. “You don’t have to go through anybody, you don’t need a middle person to get this money. There is no fee, there is no charge.”

WEB LINKS

Search NYS unclaimed funds database

Search US Federal government unclaimed funds database

Christine made the call, to the State Comptroller, and here is what she found out: the state is holding $2,700 for her in the Unclaimed Funds account. The largest amount was an old savings account she had forgotten about, which had collected interest over the years. There was also her last paycheck from a former employer that had gone out of business.

The good news made Matthews very happy, “I had no idea,” and she thought about all the things the lost money could be used for, “I am really delighted, and there is more than enough use for it.”

Call 4 Action also called out the Las Vegas finder for its attempts to take Christine’s money. Christine was unable to cancel the monthly subscription, so she cancelled the debit card the subscription was charged to, and despite the firm’s “30-day money back guarantee”, a supervisor at the Las Vegas firm said Matthews would not get all of her money back.

Upon further review, the supervisor could not prove Matthews actually agreed to initial charge, so she agreed to refund the $24.90 Christine paid for the “search”.

Click to see which WNY counties have the most unclaimed money.
Click to see which WNY counties have the most unclaimed money.

Christine was happy and so was Angie, “Wow that is huge, that is huge! That is a true blessing.”

Angie who is also the pastor for The Master’s Plan Ministries in Dayton, said she figures her congregation should be checking out the Unclaimed Funds account.

“When Christine can benefit almost $3,000, there is probably a lot of other people out there that have money that they are simply not aware of.”

You can search the Office of the State Comptroller’s Unclaimed Funds website to see if the state is holding any of your money. The Comptroller also has links to the unclaimed funds for all 50 states, here.

Those without access to the Internetcan call 1-800-221-9311 Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to get instructions for searching the database.

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