As the littlest state in the country, Rhode Island is justifiably known as “Little Rhody”, but there is nothing small about the amount of Rhode Island unclaimed money currently currently sitting in the RI Office of the General Treasurer. According to the office’s website, the state is now holding more than 124 million dollars of the peoples’ money, and the only thing stopping people from taking back their funds is knowledge and the ability to search correctly.
It is easy to understand why people have trouble accepting the reality of unclaimed funds because no one expects they can get free money. But “free” is not the proper term to describe these forgotten funds, because they technically already belong to the people who can claim them (except in situations where they come from a relative who passed away). So people who dismiss this phenomenon as some sort of scam are doing themselves a disservice by not realizing exactly where these properties come from.
According to the Office of the General Treasurer’s website, what follows are some of the most common forms of unclaimed properties in RI: account receivable credits and payables, insurance payments, safe deposit boxes, credit memos, gift certificates, stocks and dividends, bank accounts, refunds, wages. There are many other types, but those are the most common, and each is considered abandoned or “unclaimed” after a particular number of years of seeing no activity. After this dormancy period has passed, the holders have to to pass them along to the state for holding until the true owner makes a claim on them. The state never actually takes possession of them, which means there is not a time limit to claim missing money.
Even after learning the process by which funds become unclaimed, it is still tough to wrap our minds around the fact that there are hundreds of millions waiting to be found by RI residents, and tens of billions nationwide. It is tough to accept that people have simply forgotten about these properties, but the fact is they have. In fact experts estimate that in the United States 7 in 10 people are owed money. The difficulty is understanding how to track down and claim our cash.
More often than not, people get in their own way of locating their unclaimed funds by doing things like looking on the wrong sites and searching only one time. Not all unclaimed funds sites are equal. Many don’t have any actual missing money records, and even the handful that do often contain mostly outdated data. Even actual state records are notoriously not accurate due to the fact that they are not updated in real time. Given that assets are turned over all the time, and each type has a unique dormancy period, a listing for a given person’s name may not be added to the system until the day, week or month after they search, leaving them with the incorrect impression that they are not owed money.
Although in recent years RI has increased efforts to give back forgotten funds to the true owners, more money continues to come in than is returned to the owners, so the total will keep on growing, giving each citizen a greater chance of locating a claim. The state simply does not have the ability to efficiently track down everyone who has money coming to them so the best thing residents of RI can do is to study how to search like professional finders do, and then use those tactics to maximize their search potential.
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