|Unclaimed money: Here's how to find
"Most stock certificates people find are collectibles,"
Nester says. "Either the companies have long since gone out
of business and there's no successor, or they were reported as lost
(and new certificates were issued)."
If the company was absorbed by another company and
the stockholders were supposed to turn in their certificates for
new shares, you may have forfeited your right to the money.
"That's fairly rare because companies do look
for you when you haven't been responding to their mailings -- proxy
materials, annual statements, that sort of thing," Nester says.
The SEC has detailed
instructions on how to research the current value of an old
If nothing else, you can do what Nester says some
holders of certificates of dead dot-coms have been doing: selling
them on eBay.
"Some of the certificates are selling for more
than the companies issued them for," he says.
Life insurance policies
is a good place to start a search for benefits from life insurance
There are some other routes to try, as well.
Dave Evans, vice president of retirement and financial
planning at the Independent Insurance Agents of America, says every
policy has to contain contact information. If you've tried that
and can't reach the company, go to the insurance department of the
state in which the policy was issued.
"If a carrier goes into receivership or someone
else takes it over, they would know about that," Evans says.
The tough ones are the policies issued by small fraternal
or ethnic organizations.
"There, you might try networking through circles
of friends," Evans says.
This source of funds could be an extraordinary windfall for a widow
or widower living on a fixed income.
"If someone worked somewhere and got vested,
as a spouse you're entitled to at least 50 percent of that pension,
even if you're divorced," Evans says. "There are lots
of women out there with pensions they're entitled to that they don't
The federal agency that's charged with administering
those funds is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Try this search
for a list of individuals who are owed pensions.
Income tax refunds
This doesn't happen that often because the Internal Revenue Service
has infinite resources at its disposal to find you.
If you move and don't leave a forwarding address,
you may stay lost for a little while, but as soon as you get a job
and paperwork is turned in with your Social Security number, they
can find you.
Still, the IRS reported in 2000 that it was
sitting on more than $67 million in unclaimed tax refunds -- an
average of $734 each -- that came back to them as undeliverable.
If the IRS owes you money that never showed up in the mail, call
its hotline at (800) 829-1040.