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DiNapoli says there's an unclaimed $12 billion in the state--some of it could be yours

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 12/14/2012, 11:58 a.m.
Thomas DiNapoli

Those looking for some extra cash during the holidays or in need of money to help recover from Superstorm Sandy may need to look no further than the state comptroller's office.

In a recent interview with the AmNews, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said that there is $12 billion in unclaimed money throughout the state. Many New Yorkers could have up to hundreds of dollars in money that belongs to them and not even know it.

According to the Office of Unclaimed Funds, banks, insurance companies, utilities, investment companies and many other businesses are required by state law to surrender inactive accounts to the state. These accounts are known as "lost," "abandoned" or "unclaimed."

The comptroller serves as custodian of this money. Those who can prove they are entitled to the money can claim it from the state at any time for no charge. Money that is not claimed is used by the state's General Fund.

"We realize that people are more mobile these days, and people may not know that they have money available to them that might belong to them," DiNapoli said. "This is an ongoing responsibility that we have."

The comptroller reported that sometimes payouts can be pretty hefty. While the largest amount ever for one resident was $4 million from an old stock holding, on average a New Yorker could have between $100 to $1,000 they might not know about.

Those who want to know if they have money are urged to go to the state comptroller's website at www.ocs.state.ny.us, where they can enter their name and find out if money is waiting. Names of family members can also be input. People may also call 1-800-221-9311, but DiNapoli said going through the website is faster.

The comptroller warns against "finders," which are legal businesses that charge a fee to find unclaimed money. DiNapoli said that the service from the state comptroller's office is free of charge. Finders usually charge 15 percent of whatever money they find for clients.

As parts of the state continue to recover from Sandy, DiNapoli suggested that victims may have much-needed money that is owed to them they might not know about. The comptroller's office is putting more people on staff and speeding up the process for those living in areas devastated by the storm.

"We ran the ZIP codes of those communities in New York that were most impacted by the storm, and we found accounts that a total of $2 billion for impacted areas," DiNapoli said. "We are really trying to be proactive. This is not limited to one neighborhood. We want to get the money returned."

If you find out you have money that is unclaimed, DiNapoli said it takes a couple of weeks to get the money. Small businesses, churches and groups are also urged to look for unclaimed funds, DiNapoli added.

Manhattan has the highest number of residents with unclaimed money, totaling $1.2 billion.