VOLS Elderly Project finds $6,000 in "unclaimed funds" for elderly client!

May 5, 2017


Alexander Ryley

Director, Elderly Project

Dear Friends,

Are you aware that the State of New York may be holding free money for your clients -- or you? It's true, and this is why we at the Elderly Project query the "Unclaimed Funds" section of the NYS Comptroller's Office website for every client we see, to determine whether the client has money waiting for him or her.  The funds I'm referring to are usually monies that a business or agency tried to pay to the client in the past but did not -- often because the person moved, or a check was lost.  Eventually the business or agency must turn over the money to the Comptroller's Office, and that office just sits on it until the payee claims it.  A client of ours recently received $6,000 this way! -- but more on that in a moment.

It's very easy to query the Comptroller's Office website for your clients, or for yourself (and friends and family for that matter).  Click here to be directed to the Comptroller's website, click "Search Now", and enter the person's name -- it's that simple.  (With a common name, it helps to narrow the search on the next page by typing in the name of the city or borough.) If a claim comes up, you'll see only the name of the business or agency that reported it, and the year when it was reported; the client will not learn how much money is at stake until the check arrives.  To make a claim online, the claimant will need to enter some information, including his or her Social Security number.

A couple of other things to note:

First, sometimes the address that the Comptroller's office has on file does not match the claimant's current address.  In that instance, the Comptroller's Office may not permit the claimant to make a claim online and will require that the claimant mail in: a) a claim form that the claimant has signed in front of a notary; and b) proof of a connection to the other address (even an old piece of mail showing the old address will usually do the trick).  

Second, there are (in my opinion) unscrupulous companies out there that troll through the Comptroller's website, find people with potential claims, and mail solicitations to those potential claimants offering to submit the claim for them in exchange for a percentage of the funds received.  Needless to say, because making the claim yourself is free and takes about five minutes, I do not recommend working with these companies.

Third, every state in the union holds unclaimed funds just as New York does.  A couple of years ago, I queried the state of Maine Comptroller's Office for a client who used to work as a nurse in Maine, and we helped her claim an old check from the Maine pension system.  To query other states, just google "unclaimed funds" and the name of the state.

But now to the $6,000 story.  Recently we met a woman in her 70s who is going to have to leave her rental apartment because the owner is selling her building, and her apartment is not rent-regulated.  She came to our Hamilton-Madison House legal clinic to inquire about her legal rights.  I reviewed her lease contract and agreed to help her negotiate a small "buyout" from her landlord, and I also ran her name through the Comptroller's Office website.  What came up was a claim, from decades ago, for some shares of stock that she had once owned and had lost track of.  We helped her enter her claim online, and, a couple of weeks later, she received a check for $6,000! Needless to say, this money arrived at a very opportune time.

Unclaimed funds checks as large as $6,000 are rare (at least in my experience), but for many of our clients a check for even $50 can be very meaningful.  So please consider making these queries for your clients -- and happy hunting!