Unclaimed property scam imitates state, asks for fees
INDIANAPOLIS – Attorney General Curtis Hill recommends that Hoosiers take care to verify the legitimacy of offers that claim you may have unclaimed property held by the state. The National Association for Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has identified a number of unclaimed property scams across the United States, including reports of scams in Indiana.
As the Office of the Indiana Attorney General revs up its efforts to educate Hoosiers about Indiana Unclaimed and encourage them to search for unclaimed property, it is important to be aware of potential scams that exist to defraud claimants.
Scammers send legitimate-looking letters or emails and make professional-sounding phone calls. They claim there are hundreds of dollars in unclaimed property under your name. However, these letters ask for your personal information and your credit card number as payment for finding a property that doesn’t exist.
Unclaimed property is cash or other financial assets belonging to individuals or businesses — such as payroll refunds; security and savings accounts; insurance payments; and death benefits. When businesses fail to find the owners of accounts, perhaps because of a move or name change, they are required after a certain period of time to turn over that unclaimed money to the state. The state then holds the unclaimed property as efforts are made to return it to rightful owners.
In 2016, Indiana returned around $66 million. As of June 2017, the state was in possession of some $466 million in unclaimed property. The state has returned 51,881 claims so far this year, amounting to more than $28 million returned to Hoosiers. The average amount of a claim is $544.4 in assets.
Hoosiers’ property is safe with the state, said Lindsey Mayes, Director of the Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division.
“Most important for a claimant to remember is that the purpose of Unclaimed Property is to reunite the property with its rightful owner, and our division does this free of charge,” Mayes said.
An offer by phone, email or letter of large sums of money in unclaimed property in your name is appealing. One scam is reported to have suggested $450,000 in unclaimed property was available. However, it is important to scrutinize the legitimacy of these offers. The Unclaimed Property Division has investigators who actively search for owners of unclaimed property so it is possible that you could be contacted by the state. If, however, you are contacted in the name of the state and asked for a credit card number or other payment to receive your property, know that it is a scam.
“Never, under any circumstances, should anyone pay for anything related to unclaimed property over the phone,” Mayes said.
If you are unsure of a contact’s legitimacy, you can check by searching your name at IndianaUnclaimed. You can also contact Indiana’s Unclaimed Property Division by submitting a question online or by calling 866-IN-CLAIM.
Some private individuals and organizations do legally make money by searching for owners of unclaimed property and informing them of it. Often called “finders,” they can legally request up to 10 percent of the value of the property as a fee for locating the property. Unlike scammers, finders will not demand a payment upfront or over the phone. Rather, they will seek a legal contract.
Hoosiers need to know they generally could avoid paying any fees at all, however, by simply searching their own names at IndianaUnclaimed.gov. Staff from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General will be at the Indiana State Fair throughout August to assist Hoosiers who would like to search for unclaimed property.
You can search for unclaimed property by typing a name into the search bar at IndianaUnclaimed.gov, and any properties related to that name will appear. After identifying your property in the database, you can fill out the claim form, then print and mail both that form and proof of identity to the state unclaimed property office. After your claim is processed, your property will be returned to you within 60 days.
These scammers cannot directly steal your unclaimed property. State-held unclaimed property can only be claimed by the named recipient or, if the owner is deceased, the named heirs. When you search for your name at IndianaUnclaimed.gov, you will be able to identify your claim by the information listed: your full name, last known address, the company that submitted the assets and the dollar value of the assets. With your filled-out claim form, you will need to provide proof of identity, which may include proof of address or proof of past business with the reporting company.
Upon submission, your claim receives extensive examination. All claims are reviewed at least twice, and claims exceeding $10,000 are reviewed by an internal investigator. The Unclaimed Property Division uses tools that scan their systems, flagging any attempts of fraud. They also use tools that find connections between unclaimed property and the claimer so you can be sure that your property is safe.
The unclaimed property search engine, instructions on how to file out a claim, and frequently asked questions can all be found at IndianaUnclaimed.gov or by calling 866-IN-CLAIM.
To report a suspected scam, call 866-IN-CLAIM or file a consumer complaint online at IndianaConsumer.gov.
To sign up for the Attorney General’s Fraud Alert Program, which will send an alert to your e-mail when a scam has been identified in your area, go to IndianaConsumer.gov.
Office of the Indiana Attorney General
Unclaimed Property Division
P.O. Box 2504
Greenwood, IN 46142
SOURCE: News release from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General