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There is no questioning that the amount of unclaimed money or property
being held by both State and Federal agencies is staggering and growing each
year current estimate is believed to be in excess of $40 BILLION.
On the prowl for new sources of revenue, cash-strapped States are pouncing
on UNCLAIMED PROPERTY by shortening the dormancy period
of most abandoned property and strictly enforcing their statues for holders
or companies to transfer over these funds to the States custody. If
a state audit discovers the company has been laxed or under reported these
funds face stiff fines. As a result in the past few years, millions of unclaimed
accounts worth over a $ billion are transferred to the States each year.
With all that said, the emergence of unclaimed property or Money web
sites have appeared on the Internet hoping to gain from such. Some are legit
and do offer a valuable service and information to assist one in locating
an unclaimed property or lost asset. However, many offer a useless,
misleading and costly service especially those that market themselves as
FREE and INSTANT searches.
Here is the 3-prong trap and how it works:
There is NO National database for unclaimed property accounts.
Every State has its own Unclaimed Property Division and each Federal agency
handles its own unclaimed accounts. All of the former and many of the latter
have online databases for one to search.
The web sites have collected a few millions names with unclaimed property
accounts from States online databases that can be readily done
with software that converts the online information into their own database.
With more than maybe over 100 million unclaimed property accounts
nationwide, processing only 5 million accounts, their database will likely
have 90%+ of all American last/surnames.
One is asked to insert your name into their search box and the
Instant result says there is i.e.) $25,000 of unclaimed money
in your name. Well, there can be many/hundreds of others with your name and
their software generates varies spellings or numerous first initials to inflate
the dollar amount. I.e.) if your name was Cathy Stevens, the dollar amount
would include C. Stevens, Kathy Stevens, K. Stevens etc. trying to
lure you into subscribing.
The 2nd tier of the trap is more serious. They purport that they normally
charge i.e.) $29.95 for a single search, but a special promotion allows unlimited
searches for 30 days for only $12.95 a deal right?! First of all,
to conduct a thorough search, one needs to be checking regularly to find
any lost asset. Their database is maybe 5% of all accounts and likely never
refreshed too timely and expensive. And no incentive, they have 90%
of all surnames.
It gets better/worse. If one does not read the terms and conditions, you
will be charged $29.95 at the end of the 30 day period if you do not cancel
the subscription. Based on ones credit card billing cycle, one may
not see the second charge (assuming you forgot to cancel) in your statement
until still another $29.95 is charged to your credit card.
Last, some of these services purport a 100% money back guarantee. One gets
his subscription back if the State says the unclaimed account found in their
database is not yours? Their database information was lifted from the
States database. The information that accompanies the unclaimed account
will definitely tell one if it is yours. One only gets a refund if the State
refuses to return your rightful account. That is not legally possible. The
guarantee is worthless. Plus any written correspondence to the State could
take 4-6 months to confirm that the unclaimed account was never yours.
Here are the sites that offer such services. They mask themselves under various
URLs, but appear to be the same according to Whois.
There are sites out here that offer a valuable service for assisting one
in locating unclaimed or lost assets just be cautious of these common and
costly traps. The only thorough way to locate one's unclaimed property
is to regularly check with all databases for the States in which one
has ever lived or worked in, as well as, other Federal databases.
Thomas Tuke is the CEO of American Refund Services specializing in assisting
others locate their unclaimed accounts without paying a Finders Fee.
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