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Better Business Bureau ®
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Metropolitan New York, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region
Recovering Abandoned Property and Unclaimed Assets
Abandoned property and unclaimed assets, in most cases, are bank accounts that have been inactive. This means that there have been no deposits, withdrawals or any interest postings in an account book for a period usually between two to five years. Abandoned property can also consist of securities and dividends held by stockbrokers and corporations; uncashed checks issued in payment of wages, dividends, interest or insurance payments; or unclaimed utility deposits. Abandoned property can also include uncashed IRS refunds or other Federal government payments.

If the Federal government cannot locate people for whom it is holding money, that money is turned over to the state where the person is last known to have lived. The time required for property to become “inactive” or “dormant” depends on the type of property, as determined by New York State law, but it usually varies between two and five years. After a specific period of time has elapsed, the abandoned property is turned over to the Office of Unclaimed Funds of the New York State Comptroller’s Office. These funds are put to use for the benefit of citizens of New York, but never become the property of the State. If they amount to $3.01 or more, they remain available for the rightful owner or heir. 


Recovery
To find out if the NYS Comptroller is holding money or securities to which you may be entitled, write or phone:

Office of Unclaimed Funds 
Alfred E. Smith State Office Building 
Albany, NY 12236 
1-800-221-9311 (from within NY State) 
518-474-4038 (outside NY State)

Provide your Social Security number, your current address, previous address, previous names you may have used, and current or previous business names and addresses. If an account is found, the state may request certain further proof (such as bank passbooks, proof of address, proof of ownership of stock, etc.) before a claim is paid. NO CHARGES ARE MADE BY THE STATE FOR SEARCHING THE RECORDS, CHECKING THE PROOF SUBMITTED OR RETURNING THE ABANDONED PROPERTY.

You may also visit the New York State Comptroller’s Web Site at www.osc.state.ny.us to check to see if you are eligible for any unclaimed assets.

People may also locate assets held by New York State on their own by checking the list of abandoned property published in the “Abandoned Property Supplement” of the New York State Register, published by:

New York State Department of State 
162 Washington Avenue 
Albany, NY 12231

The Supplement is published twice a year and can be found in most libraries as well as offices of town and county clerks.

Each state has its own unclaimed assets and property office. If you have moved across state lines, you may want to check each state’s office.

Abandoned Property Locating Services
Abandoned property locating services send mailings to people whose names appear on a list of abandoned property and charge a fee, often in advance, in exchange for the name and code number of organizations that previously held the property now held by the New York State Comptroller. Consumers have complained to the Better Business Bureau that they have received letters from abandoned property locating services that make exaggerated and, in some instances, misleading claims. Some consumers have alleged that they have paid the fee requested by the firm only to find that the state held $3 or less of their money.


New York State Regulations
The Office of Unclaimed Funds will release abandoned property only to entitled persons, persons who can present approved power of attorney from a claimant, legal heirs or to attorneys duly hired by the claimant to handle affairs. It is never necessary for a claimant to work through an attorney or assign power of attorney to another to obtain funds, but if an attorney is used, the NY State Abandoned Property Law provides in Section 1416 that:

  1. No agreement with someone else to locate property held by the comptroller shall be valid unless the agreement is in writing and signed by the property owner, discloses the name and address of the holder.
  2. No such agreement shall be valid if it provides for a fee in excess of 15% of the value of the recoverable property.

Different regulations may apply to assets located in another state or if the property has not been registered with the comptroller as abandoned property. Consumers should contact the State Comptroller or Treasury Department in the state where the assets are being held.

Rightful Owner Locating Services
Persons may also be notified by a locating service that they may be “heir” to an unclaimed asset not yet held by the state. Corporations, banks, insurance companies, trustees and attorneys retain such services to find missing persons for whom unclaimed assets are being held. As these assets are not considered abandoned property (because they have not been turned over to the state), the New York State Abandoned Property Law - including the limitation of the fee to a maximum of 15% - does not apply.

All fees should be understood in advance. They are often based on a percentage of the value of the recovered asset and are contingent upon the rightful owners not having been previously aware of his or her entitlement to the unclaimed asset. Fees are generally paid only upon successful recovery. Before entering into an agreement to locate unclaimed assets, a person should examine and understand the terms and fee schedule before signing a contract.