Every year, literally millions of dollars are "lost" in forgotten bank accounts. In some instances, the owner has died. In others, the money was simply forgotten. Sometimes the amounts of money are small; in others, especially when the money has been compounding interest for years or decades, the amounts are staggering. With some persistence, it is possible to reclaim the sums to which you are entitled.
Finding Lost Bank Accounts
Obtain the Social Security number and death certificate (if applicable) of the bank account holder. Gather as much additional information as possible. Check through computer records, tax returns, bill payment records and mail for possible bank account information.
Contact all the local banks in any area where the account holder lived. Send a written request explaining the situation. Include the Social Security number and copy of the death certificate (if applicable) for the account holder. The banks should respond if there is a bank account or other holdings in the person's name.
Contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or primary regulators concerning any bank whose name turns up during the search and for which you cannot obtain contact information. The FDIC insures the vast majority of financial institutions in the United States. The FDIC maintains a list of all primary regulators with contact information on its website.
Check out closed and merged banks. The FDIC maintains a list of all failed banks. In addition, it is possible to trace banks which have merged through online databases. Conduct searches using data such as name, location, routing number or FDIC certificate number.
Contact former workplaces. In writing, contact the human resources department or whomever is responsible for maintaining personnel records. Include the person's social security number, period of employment with the company and your relationship to the person (if searching for someone other than yourself) and explain the circumstances involved.
Search the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators database. Bank accounts unclaimed for 18 months are turned over to the unclaimed property office for the state. The NAUPA database contains information about unclaimed property for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec in Canada.
Check the mail of a person who has died. Monthly and quarterly statements may continue.
Once unclaimed property is turned over to the state, there is a 10-year limit to claim the property, after which it is permanently forfeited.
Things You'll Need
Social Security number
Most recent and past addresses
List of local banks