ALBANY -- New York has a record $15 billion in unclaimed funds. So you might want to see if some of it is yours.
In fact, the pot managed by the state Comptroller's Office jumped 20 percent over the past five years, up from $12.5 billion in 2013.
At the same time, the amount returned to New Yorkers soared at a similar rate. The state has aggressively advertised the program, aiming to get people back money that had been sitting dormant in old bank accounts, business transactions, gift cards or property sales.
The refunds jumped from $347 million in 2013 to $424 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
About 65 percent of claims are for less than $100, but the largest outstanding is for an $8 million estate. And about 37 million accounts are still unclaimed.
Banks, insurance companies and other institutions are required to turn over the contents of inactive or abandoned accounts to the state.
"We always tell people, it’s not quite the lottery, but people should check," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.
"They should check their own name, their relatives, their businesses, non profits they are involved with. There are any number of ways people can be connected with the program."
The Albany Bureau for the USA Today Network annually creates its own unclaimed funds database based off the information provided by the Comptroller’s Office.
Type in a name and it will show any matches, but you would have to then follow up with the Comptroller's Office on how much is due and how to claim it.
The Comptroller's Office database can show whether you are owed as little as $20 dating back to 1985. The Albany Bureau’s database captures as little as $3 since 1985.
If you don't claim the money, the state of New York will.
In Westchester County, $257 million is uncollected in 461,000 accounts, while $51 million in 115,000 accounts is available in Rockland County and $13 million from 34,000 accounts is outstanding in Putnam County, the records showed.
Back to NY
A portion of the money not claimed by individuals is swept up by the state each year and put into New York's $153 billion budget to pay for program and services.
The state Legislature, when New York was facing fiscal woes, sped up how quickly unclaimed funds end up in the general fund -- from five years to three years.
So the amount of unclaimed funds sent to cover state operating expenses soared to $715 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year, but has since fallen by 39 percent -- to $435 million last fiscal year.
State officials said the unclaimed funds received from the program each year is on par with their estimates after the surge five years ago.
"The results remain in line with our financial-plan projections and the shared goal of returning more abandoned funds to the rightful owners," said Morris Peters, a spokesman for the state Budget Division.
The Comptroller's Office has sought to make it easier to request money from dormant accounts and make claims for deceased individuals for which a person is a custodian. Now 85 percent of the transactions are done online.
For example, New Yorkers can send a picture of requested documents through the comptroller's website, shaving as much as four weeks off the process.
You can also check the status of a claim online.
"It has really made it very easy, and we have updated the program for those more complicated recoveries," DiNapoli said.
There are plenty of notable names on the unclaimed funds list, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo for "uncashed checks" and even President Donald Trump -- for "unredeemed gift cards" at Trump Tower, the database showed.
Here’s some other facts, figures and questions about the unclaimed funds:
The Comptroller Office does not charge any processing fees to reclaim the funds, and it warns people about paying private companies to do the work for them, saying it can be done easily online.
"If you go through one of these finders, it’s legal," DiNapoli said. "They are allowed to do it, but we want people to get 100 percent of their money – not to have to pay a fee for it."
What type of funds
- Unclaimed funds accounts include:
- Bank Accounts – savings, checking and CDs
- Court Funds
- Estate Proceeds
- Insurance Benefits/Policies
- Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds
- Telephone/Utility/Security Deposits
Is there interest paid?
Interest is accrued for the first five years on interest-bearing accounts, such as savings and CDs accounts. The current interest rate is 2 percent.
What is needed to claim any money can vary based on type of account and ownership status.
More complex claims, such as those involving estates and companies, have to have a notarized signature, social security number, proof of connection with the account owner and the address associated with the account.
How to claim money
Check our unclaimed funds database to see if your listed.
Then to file a claim, visit the Comptroller's website.
You can also make a claim through the mail: The New York State Comptroller's Office of Unclaimed Funds, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.
For accounts prior to 1985 or for amounts under $20, you can call the Comptroller's Office to see whether any money is due to you: 800-221-9311.