Finding your unclaimed treasure

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - You may be richer than you think.  Free money could be just a click away.  It might be pennies or hundreds or thousands of dollars and it is no scam.

Each state has an unclaimed cash fund.  In North Carolina that fund currently sits at $344 million.  It belongs to people who live or have lived in North Carolina.

The money could come from from lost property that sat unclaimed in safe deposit boxes.  That would include coins, jewelry, family heirlooms and more.  Anything with historical significance is kept and the rest is turned to cash by the state after a year.

Making up the majority of that big fund, however, is unclaimed cash.  It starts as inactive bank accounts, lost wages, utility deposits that were never picked up, or what's left of insurance policies.

"If you move a lot or are in the military or are a student, there may be small dollars that get lost in the shuffle," said North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell.

The money stays in that fund forever. Untouched. The interest accrued pays for student scholarships.

Any of us can see if any of that cash is being held in our names by going to the website and typing in our names.  Click here to access the South Carolina fund.

With the help of the Office of the State Treasurer, we were able to connect several Charlotte-area residents with large sums of cash they are owed including a teacher who learned she had $66,000 waiting for her.

We also connected a family in Concord with $37,000 they were due.

"Our initial reaction was wow, this is a great day.  We were very excited!" said Keith Lazarus.

However, their excitement quickly turned to anger when they realized the money they found never should have been lost in the first place.

"We did some digging and realized it is the same amount we had in our savings account,"

An account they believed to still be active though they were not contributing to it or withdrawing from it.

They called the bank right away.

The bank gave our money to the state without us knowing because of inactivity is what their reasoning was," Lazarus said.

They said they received no notice in the mail.

WBTV reached out to Fifth Third bank on their behalf.  A spokesperson says any regular statements were going to the family's current address.  However, they can't tell us whether the required notice that they were turning the money over to the state also went to that current address or to an outdated one.

They did try to call the family and the bank says the phone number they had was outdated.

Since this was brought to Fifth Third's attention they have reached out to the family and offered to work with the state of North Carolina to expedite the return of their money.

Remember, you should check the unclaimed cash funds of every state in which you have lived to see if you have money coming to you.

The number of the NC State Treasurer's Office is 919-508-1000.

"This is the Ed McMahon part of my job, I love returning lost cash to people who didn't realize it was there," Cowell said.

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