Tracking Down Lost Cash

The government could be holding money in your name. The following resources can help you track down forgotten accounts or checks that were returned to the sender, which could be worth hundreds of dollars or more.

Unclaimed property. Check the unclaimed-property database for states where you opened an account and states where you have lived. If you have financial accounts that have not been active for several years, or checks from utility deposits, dividends or payroll checks that have not been cashed (often sent to your old address and returned to the sender when you moved), the money may have been sent to your state as abandoned property. You can search for money in your name at your state’s unclaimed property division (find links at, and you can also search the database of 39 states at

Unclaimed tax refunds. The IRS has more than $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for people who didn’t file income-tax returns in the past. Some people who had income taxes withheld from their paychecks or qualified for credits may not have filed an income-tax return because they didn’t owe money. But they could still get a refund check from the IRS. The average unclaimed refund is worth more than $800! You have up to three years after the tax-filing deadline to file an income-tax return and claim the money. You usually aren’t penalized for filing late if you get a refund. The IRS is also holding money for people who did file returns but their refund checks hadn’t been cashed or were returned in the mail. You can check on the status of your refunds for past years by using the Where’s My Refund? tool at

Old savings bonds. If you think you may have old savings bonds that haven’t been cashed but you can’t find the paperwork, you can ask the Treasury Department to search for the bonds in your name. Fill out Form 1048, Claim for Lost, Stolen or Destroyed U.S. Savings Bonds, which you can find at The form asks for the name the bond was purchased under, the Social Security number, and the address, as well as the serial numbers of the bonds. If you don't have all the information (such as the serial numbers), provide as much information as you can. Including the name, Social Security number, and approximate dates of the bonds will help.


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