Massachusetts residents should be on the lookout for unclaimed funds, according to those who track them.
State Treasurer Steven Grossman—who is also running for governor in 2014—has announced that part of that amount includes 51,000 newly listed names with $75 million owed to them. The list now totals 600,000 people who have forgotten bank accounts, un-cashed checks, insurance policies, stocks and contents of unattended safe deposit boxes.
“Over the years, we’ve accumulated $2.4 billion of unclaimed property that we would love to return to its rightful owners,” Grossman said. “One out of every ten people in the Commonwealth has unclaimed property.”
Grossman says his office goes to 80 shows a year, like The Big E, to help people find out if money is owed to them.
“We have a table set up and you can walk up and say ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so. Do I have unclaimed property?” he said. “We will check it out right on the spot.”
Through events like these, the state set a record by returning $103 million to residents last year. Still, Grossman says because only the newly added names are listed each spring and fall, many people don’t think they have unclaimed property. Last year, 43,000 people claimed money out of the 600,000 total, which is just over 7 percent. Grossman says some of the individual amounts total over $1 million and include some unlikely people.
“We had $332 and change for the President of the United States,” Grossman said. “If you can get the forms to the White House hopefully the President will ask for his $332 back.”
A portion of the unclaimed funds come from the state’s Welcome Home Bonus program that gives $1,000 to military members returning to the Commonwealth after serving in Afghanistan.
“We were able to return hundreds of thousands of dollars of unclaimed property,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but any time a veteran who has put on the uniform of this country and has put him or herself in harm’s way to defend our freedoms and we can get unclaimed property back in their hands, I’m going to go a long way to try to make that happen.”
Aside from funds held by the state, those who have worked in the public sector for local municipalities may also have money owed to them. This money is left over from pension funds and reductions from their paychecks. Dale Kowacki is the Executive Director of the Franklin Regional Retirement System.
“Some people don’t spend very much time here,” Kowacki said. “They might come in as a substitute teacher or a highway worker and they might only last a couple months because they decide to move on, so their money is here. Often people leave their money with us thinking they may come back some day.”
Kowacki and Michael Ovitt of the Berkshire Regional Retirement System say both organizations scan local obituaries to keep tabs on whether or not to notify next of kin for money owed. Both organizations represent retirees of the local public sector. Ovitt says Berkshire’s direct deposit system limits the chance for money to go unattended.
“We get it into the designated account,” Ovitt said. “If a person passes away or moves out of the area, they’re going to have a bank account with money sitting in it as opposed to a check that’s written by us that’s not cashed.”
To find out if you have unclaimed property, call 888-344-MASS or visit findmassmoney.com. Here is a list of regional retirement contacts:
Franklin Regional Retirement: 413-774-4837
Berkshire County Retirement: 413-499-1981
Hampshire County Retirement: 413-584-9100
Hampden County Retirement: 413-737-1344
Town of Adams Retirement: 413-743-5575
City of North Adams Retirement: 413-663-5185
City of Pittsfield Retirement: 413-499-9468