- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

Ann of Buspunta, Va., was certainly surprised when her granddaughter, Monica, called her with great news. Money news to be precise, more than $4,000, that the 69-year-old widow did not even know she had lost.
Monica found the money in cyberspace, just in time for Christmas last year when she visited MissingMoney.com (www.missingmoney.com).
The Internet site, which works with the National Association of Unclaimed Properties Administrators (NAUPA) (www.naupa.org), found a listing for a stock that Ann's husband had purchased many years ago and forgot.
A company had filed for bankruptcy and, in accordance with federal law, turned the money over to the state treasurer to find its rightful owner.
Unclaimed money is often the result of forgotten security deposits, stock and bond purchases, lost bank accounts, insurance policies and unresolved estates. Nearly one out of eight persons in the U.S. is eligible to make a claim, the company says.
"There are 17 million fully matured, unredeemed savings bonds totaling $7 billion held by the Bureau of Public Debt in West Virginia alone," said Mike Meriton, who is president of MissingMoney.com and senior vice president of CheckFree Corp. "Experts also estimate that U.S. corporations hold another $100 billion worth of unclaimed property."
The experts also believe that only around 10 percent of all companies comply with unclaimed property laws, which have a history going back to the reversal of an 1800s British statute that decreed property must be returned to the ownership of the king.
Today, in accordance with the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act, all companies and/or persons who have unclaimed money or abandoned property items from an individual are required, by law, to turn those funds over to the state treasurer within a "state specific" time period.
Part of NAUPA's mission is to help states enforce these laws as well as search for the missing owners for the properties, which states are obliged to keep in a perpetual trust fund until the owners are found.
The nonprofit (comprised of 51 member groups) along with 26 states including Maryland, Virginia and the District have joined MissingMoney.com and provide monthly updated access to their databases.
Since becoming part of the Web site in November of last year, NAUPA representatives from Virginia have responded to more than 6,300 inquiries for potential owners. Those inquiries have led to more than 2,400 claims that have returned in excess of $547,000 to missing owners.
MissingMoney.com's caretaker is an Owing Mills, Md., division of CheckFree, an Atlanta-based electronic commerce company. CheckFree's 2,400 employees work with more than 3 million consumers, thousands of businesses and hundreds of financial institutions in developing electronic commerce solutions.
MissingMoney.com is free to both the listing state and the user. Of course, CheckFree hopes the nonprofit Web site will increase awareness of its for-profit services, including MissingCustomers.com, a new service.
One of the most recent federal bodies to join the nonprofit service is the District of Columbia, which has held more than $150 million in unclaimed property since 1980 with a recent $200,000 payout, its largest to date.
That claim may soon take second place to a more than $1 million payout turned over to the District's NAUPA office when a resident lost track of a stock purchase.
"With the sanction of NAUPA, it was a very easy decision to join MissingMoney.com," said Elliott Kindred, director of unclaimed property for the District. "Both our Deputy CFO and Treasurer Doctor William Hall and Doctor Natwar Gandhi, our CEO, saw this as an excellent extension of our outreach efforts to find owners of unclaimed property."
The D.C. group often goes out to the public with laptops and databases ready, visiting nursing centers, fairs and mall events to help people search for their property. The Web site will make it that much easier for both past and present residents to search the database.
Not all states, including my former stomping grounds of Illinois, are reporting property to MissingMoney.com at this time. So, unfortunately, I don't know if I left any pennies behind in the Land of Lincoln. But I do plan on checking the Web site monthly, just in case.
Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (joseph@twtmail.com).

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