Are you owed money? How to find unclaimed money from old accounts

Who doesn't want to find money they didn't know they had?

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Everyone dreams about a sudden windfall of money, but most of us aren't going to hit the lottery anytime soon. However, you might just stumble upon small sums of cash that you didn't even know existed.

If you've ever heard the term "unclaimed money" and wondered whether or not it's a scam, we have some good news. It is indeed real, and there's plenty of cash out there just waiting to be claimed.

Not sure how to find out if you or a loved one are entitled to some unclaimed money? NBC News Senior Consumer Investigative Correspondent Vicky Nguyen is breaking it all down for us.

What is unclaimed money?

Unclaimed money might seem too good to be true, but the concept actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

“Unclaimed money is simply that — money that is owed to you, that didn’t reach you for whatever reason,” Nguyen explains.

For instance, maybe a former employer, retailer or insurance company sent a check to your old address or it got lost in the mail. Typically, these checks are for small sums ($50-100), but amounts can vary.

"Banks, retailers, and health insurers are legally obligated to turn over those funds to the state," Nguyen explains.

Even if you don't have any unclaimed money in your name, all hope is not lost. Last year, the New York State comptroller told NBC New York that people may be entitled to checks that were made out to deceased parents or grandparents.

How to find unclaimed money from the government

Ready to see if you have unclaimed money? There are multiple ways to find out and, more importantly, get it back from the government.

Start by visiting, where you can find a list of all the places you could have money and a list of reputable sites where you can enter your personal information to learn more.

Here are some of the most common places money can be found:

Your State

Did you know that you're most likely to get unclaimed money from the state(s) you live in?

"This money held by your state could be from bank accounts, insurance policies, tax refunds and more. If you have lived in other states, don’t forget to check their unclaimed property offices, too," Nguyen says.

Each state has an unclaimed property office that manages inquiries.

Current and Former Employers

Pay day is always the best day of the week, but it's possible that you might've missed a payment or two from a current or former employer. Nguyen recommends checking the Department of Labor’s database for “Workers Owed Wages." You'll be prompted to enter your employer name, state and your personal information.

"Just note that after three years in the labor department, unpaid wages are then sent to the treasury department, which you would have found in the state’s database," she explains.

Closed or Failed Banks

If you were ever a member of a bank that closed or failed, visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) website and search for unclaimed money by entering your name and state and the name and city of the bank.

Savings Bonds

Sometimes, you have savings bonds that you simply forgot about. To find out if you have any that have stopped maturing, visit the government website Treasury Hunt and enter your Social Security number and state.

“If nothing matches, try again next month as the service updates its data monthly,” Nguyen says.

The website will also walk you through how to find a lost, stolen, or destroyed EE or savings bond.

Insurance Money, Tax Refunds and More

There are several other ways to find unclaimed money:

  • VeteransVeterans can search the US Department of Veterans Affairs for unclaimed insurance funds
  • Mortgages: Mortgages that are insured by the Federal Housing Association may be eligible for a refund. All you need is your last name, case number, city and state to get started.
  • Tax refunds: Visit and have the following information handy: your social security number or taxpayer ID number and the exact refund amount. “There’s also an 800 phone number to call but again to verify your identity you will need social security number, prior year tax returns, and more,” Nguyen adds.

To prove just how common unclaimed money is, Nguyen found several claims for members of the TODAY staff:

  • One for TODAY contributor Ally Love
  • Four for Craig Melvin, including one for over $100
  • Over 11 claims for Al Roker

How to avoid unclaimed money scams

Anytime you're sharing your personal information, you want to make sure it's handled safely, and searching for unclaimed money is no exception.

To ensure that you don't get ripped off, keep these tips from Nguyen in mind:

  • Don't pay anyone to get your money back: "These are government agencies that are giving something back to you that you are owed. If any site you find is trying to charge you a fee to reclaim your money, do not follow through with that site," Nguyen warns. "Go straight to the source and google the name of your state and the words unclaimed money. You’ll be directed either to your state’s comptroller’s website or given a number to call so you can get to the bottom of it."
  • Spell the website correctly: "For example, incorrectly typing .gov versus .com can make all the difference in getting a legit website versus a bogus one," Nguyen says.

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