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By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

“Unclaimed Money” is a perennial hot topic, a search trend or a TV news story that gets regurgitated every few months for an obvious reason: everyone wants to get something for nothing. Being able to cash in on unclaimed money is the epitome of living a dream, but unclaimed money is the result of a stunning reality. The funds waiting in banks, retirement accounts, or being held by the IRS represent the hard-earned dollars of millions of individuals going to waste.

Often, unclaimed money lies stagnating due to simple failures of communication. On a recent program, ABC helped a woman recover almost $15,000 that had accrued in an account left behind when her mother died from Alzhiemer’s, which likely interfered with her estate planning. It took a team of reporters a little research to find Vickie Shaluta’s money, but it was worth it — on more than a financial level. The return of the monies seemed like a reconnection with her departed mom, providing both fiscal and emotional nourishment. With a bit of sleuthing, you too can perhaps uncover an uplifting windfall.

Scouring these sources can help you find unclaimed money that might be your due:

1. Rediscover Old 401 K(s)
Contact the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Funds, which might have listings for accounts you left behind when you switched jobs, or information on 401(k) monies that remained in tact when a former employer went out of business.

2. FDIC-Insured Funds from Failed Banks
If you had money at a failed bank, you are still entitled to it. Check out this site to explore whether you or a relative might have unclaimed funds with the FDIC.

3. Deceased Relatives’ Holdings
These sites can help you find the missing money of a dead loved one, if you have been willed to receive their assets:

www.unclaimedmoney.com

The good news is that often unclaimed funds, if held in a managed account, grows through interest or investment by administrators. The bad news is that, unless attempts are made to find rightful heirs or owners, these monies will stew unused. The U.S. government estimates that there are $16 billion in unclaimed treasury bonds that remain unredeemed alone, to give you an idea of the scope of unclaimed money that is out there.

ABC News offers a full list of tips that can help you discover any piles of unclaimed money with your name on it, but be weary as you jaunt into this money journey. Unscrupulous companies are exploiting the desire to cash in on these riches. Forbes.com warns that these firms will charge you more in fees than you are likely to recoup in unclaimed money, so don’t fall for get rich quick schemes. With all the free information available online, you can easily look for unclaimed funds on your own — and keep your hard-earned money in your pocket.

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