How Do I Search for Forgotten Assets?

Image Credit: Javier Zayas Photography/Moment/GettyImages

Thousands of people have forgotten assets lingering in the past. They can be anything from forgotten utility deposits and old gift cards to former 401(k) funds and past paychecks.

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You may have money hanging out there and don't even realize it. But how do you find it? There are different organizations that can put you in touch with your old money.

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Wages From Past Employers

If you've changed jobs frequently, you might have forgotten a final paycheck somewhere along the way. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a database that's available to check for any unpaid wages.

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Enter your past company's name and tap the "WOW" search button. If your former company appears, then select it. A window will come up. Enter your first name initial and your full last name, then submit.

If you have outstanding wages, you'll be directed to the DOL office, where you can submit a claim. But hurry, the DOL only holds unclaimed wages for up to three years.

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States Hold Lost Money

What states have you lived in? Every state has an unclaimed property program. They want to reunite citizens with their assets. In fact, states hold millions of dollars of lost money and property. But it's not hopeless to find.

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The National Association of State Treasurers is a network that sponsors a multi-state website. It's free, and it lets you enter your information by state. The site is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

Go on the site and choose a state you want to check, then enter your name. Any name similar to yours might come up, so check the address that corresponds with the name. The website even lets you filter addresses. For example, if you have unclaimed assets, your name will be attached to any residence you had in the state.

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If you find your name, you can make a claim.

You can only search for miscellaneous unclaimed property on a state level. Except for IRS tax refund claims, the federal government doesn't have a centralized mechanism for finding forgotten assets.

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Thousands of people have forgotten assets lingering in the past.

Search for Old 401(k) Plans

If you tend to job-hop, you might have left something behind with your last employer. Forgetting a 401(k) plan is easy to do. There's paperwork that comes with rolling one over, so many people put it off when starting a new job. And if you move and haven't updated your information with the plan administrator, it gets lost.

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The plan is considered abandoned if the plan administrator can't reach you. It's often turned over to the state.

But if you think you forgot about an old 401(k) plan, there's a resource available. Plan custodians, administrators and sponsors have a database. This database registers missing participants.

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The website is the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits (NRURB). Enter your Social Security number on this secure website to see if you have any retirement benefits hanging out there.

The other option is to contact all your former employers.

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Missing Federal Tax Refunds

Sometimes a federal tax refund goes missing. If you think you're missing one, don't refile. Instead, go to "Where's My Refund" at the IRS. You'll need to enter your missing tax year and Social Security number.

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The other option is to call an IRS employee at 800-829-1954.

Phone Scams Regarding Assets

An individual might contact you to notify you that they found an asset of yours. But state agencies are prohibited by law from contacting anyone about lost assets. So, if someone contacts you, beware. They may just be trying to get you to divulge personal information.

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