How to collect your unclaimed bonds, funds, refunds

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Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Although there are plenty of scam artists who claim to be from the IRS, this announcement is for real: The Internal Revenue Service is holding on to $153.3 million worth in tax refund checks that were returned to the agency because of mailing-address errors.

The average check is $1,547, so it could be worthwhile doing a search using the IRS’s “Where’s My Refund?” tool (www.irs.gov), particularly if you have moved in the past few years and did not update your address with the IRS.

You may also discover unclaimed money by locating old U.S. savings bonds that have been forgotten over the years. Billions of dollars in savings bonds have stopped earning interest but haven’t been cashed. Go to www.treasuryhunt.gov to look up savings bonds issued in 1974 or later.

State governments may be holding some of your money, too. State treasuries hold billions of dollars in unclaimed property from uncashed dividend checks, returned utility deposits, uncollected insurance benefits, old savings accounts and other money that may have been returned to a financial institution after being sent to a defunct mailing address.

Most states have an unclaimed-property database that makes it easy to see whether any of the money is yours. You can find links to each state’s agency through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (www.unclaimed.org).

Most states participate in the large MissingMoney.com database, too. Enter your name and the states where you have lived, and you’ll be able to see whether there is unclaimed property for someone with your name; the last address on file with the financial institution; and whether the unclaimed property is worth more or less than $100.

Most states then include links to the forms you’ll need to submit to the state treasury to verify your identity and claim the money.

Despite all this, it’s worth being suspicious of any letters, calls or emails offering to help you locate lost cash. Scam artists and identity thieves use such messages to try to steal your money or personal information. (The IRS never sends personal emails requesting information).

Instead of clicking on a link in an email claiming to be from the government, go to agency sites directly to view their databases. Also check the FBI’s New E-Scams & Warnings page for information about recent scams (www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams).