IMPORTANT: There is no governmentwide, centralized information service or database on how unclaimed government assets may be obtained. Each individual federal agency maintains its own records.
1. How can I find out if the government has unclaimed money or property that may be mine?
To determine whether any unclaimed funds are being held by the federal government, you must determine the type of benefit or payment that could be involved, the date on which the payment was expected, and how the payment should have been made. Given this information, the agency responsible for certifying any payment due should be able to assist you in determining the current status of any payment involved. The titles and addresses for all federal agencies are available in The United States Government Manual which is available in most public libraries.
Below are government agencies that have databases you can search for unclaimed money.
Another excellent resource is the Web site for the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or www.unclaimed.org. This association consists of state officials charged with the responsibility of reuniting lost owners with their unclaimed property. This site was developed by state unclaimed property experts to assist the public, free of charge, in efforts to search for funds that may belong to you or your relatives.
2. I received a letter stating that the Treasury Department may owe me money or may be holding funds (or property) in my name. The letter indicates that I can receive this unclaimed property if I pay a "finders" fee. Can these companies help me?
Several companies, or locator services, engaged in the business of identifying and recovering unclaimed assets for profit, acquire federal check issuance data from FMS and various federal government agencies under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The information requested by these companies pertains to specific check symbols, numbers and dollar amounts identified on Treasury check cancellation listings compiled by FMS. These listings are not searchable by personal identifiers, such as a person's name or social security number. Personal identifiers may, however, exist in federal agencies' check issuance or cancellation records. Using such personal identifiers, if available, these locator services attempt to locate the prospective beneficiaries, or "payees," for canceled/unpaid government checks and, on their behalf, attempt to collect the payment amounts from the federal agencies that originally certified the payments. It is important to note that these firms are also involved in recovering unclaimed property in the possession of state and local government entities.
3. What does FMS do with checks that are returned undeliverable or cannot be paid for one reason or another?
FMS cannot issue payments on behalf of federal program agencies until official certification of those payments is received from the agencies. In those cases when undeliverable, unnegotiable and/or otherwise unpaid checks are returned to the Treasury disbursing centers, FMS merely cancels the checks and returns the respective funds to the agencies that originally certified the payments.