How to Claim Your Unclaimed Property

May 23, 2013

Do you have unclaimed property? If so, how would you know? Is it worth it to pay a service to help you identify unclaimed property? The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) aims to help people who might fall into this category understand what they need to do to reclaim their assets and possessions.

Unclaimed property refers to accounts or assets held in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity or account holder contact for one year or more. This can include savings or checking accounts, refunds, customer overpayments, as well as contents of safe deposit boxes. 

To begin searching for lost property, check legitimate sites like, which is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).  This website has official records of unclaimed property from every state and most U.S. territories. Check for property in every jurisdiction in which you have resided. Though it is free to search, you may have to pay a small fee to obtain the property. 

According to NAUPA, there are many businesses (sometimes called finders or locators) that find legitimate lost property for owners and inform them how to obtain it for a fee, usually a percentage of the total (some states limit the fee to 10 percent). Sometimes, companies will hire these firms to find you before they turn the funds over to the state. Ultimately the finder will ask you to sign a contract.

The majority of firms that provide these services work within the law, but there are also some unclaimed property scams around. To ensure the firm you're working with is legitimate, contact the BBB or the unclaimed property office in your state for more information before signing a contract. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has an Unclaimed Property Unit, which refers people to North Dakota's Department of Trust Lands also has an Unclaimed Property Division:

NAUPA offers the following tips to prevent your accounts or possessions from being designated as unclaimed property:

  • Deposit or cash all checks for dividends, wages, insurance settlements, etc. without delay.
  • Respond to legitimate requests for confirmation of account balances and stock holder proxies. Keep close track of your assets and investments.
  • If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.
  • Prepare and file a will clearly outlining the disposition of your assets.

For more information on how to recover unclaimed property, check out, and for additional consumer tips, please visit the BBB's Consumer Tips page.