(WIVB)–The State of New York is now facing a potential budget hole in the billions of dollars.
But get this, state officials are sitting on a pile of cash $16 billion that they are trying to give away.
It is known as unclaimed property from tax refund, or an old bank account you forgot about, and all that money belongs to private citizens, businesses, and non-profit groups.
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In years past, state officials have branched out to county fairs, showing folks how easy it is to find money they likely did not even know about.
Robert Higgins of Orchard Park called the unclaimed funds office to confirm his good luck.
“She is saying well, the monies that we have are in the 5-figure range. I said well, oh, okay,” Higgins said.
But the COVID pandemic has shut down the county fairs, so the State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds is trying a different tact.
“We are doing outreach mailings. We are sending out over 10,000 letters a month to New York residents on new accounts that we receive.”
Larry Schantz is the Director of the Office of Unclaimed Funds for the State Comptroller.
Even though the state is returning about $1.5 million to its rightful owners every day, the Unclaimed Funds Office is sitting on $16.5 billion in 42 million separate accounts.
While most claims amount to less than $100, one individual recovered $5 million from a stock claim.
“This indivdual came forward and it was all stock, and he was able to produce the necessary documents and he walked away with $5.2 million that was rightfully his money,” Schantz said.
The largest account on file with the State Comptroller is an $8 million claim for an estate. Schantz says it is so easy to go online or call to find out if the state is holding your money.
“All you are doing, for an individual, is putting in your last and first name, and you are going to see what comes up under that name. If it matches an address where you live, based on what they reported to us, you can begin the process,” Schantz added.
These unclaimed funds accounts have also spawned a cottage industry of what are called “finders” or “searchers” who charge for going to these websites a job you can do for free.