PenChecks Blog

8 Tips You May Not Know About to Find Missing Money

By Mary Pitman

Are you out of work? Underworked? Looking for something to do while social distancing?

Now is a great time to search for money you may not know you’re missing. It doesn’t matter if you searched before because new listings are added all the time. Check at least once a year.

This won’t provide an instant fix when you’re short on cash. Claims are paid in the order they are received. The sooner you file, the sooner your money will arrive.

Start with your state unclaimed property site. You can easily find your state site on These listings may include utility deposits, uncashed checks, refunds, rebates, stocks, safe deposit box contents, life insurance policies and more.

Some states have great search engines that provide more comprehensive results. For those that don’t (New York, California and Florida come to mind) use the tips to find listings that may otherwise never be found.

Most everybody knows to enter your name and reverse your name. But here are some tips you may not know. All of these go under Last Name.

  1. Enter your full name: John Doe
  2. If you have a designation – such as Jr, Sr, Esq, II, III etc., MD, DO, RN, CRNA, DO, DDS etc. – enter it after your name. Do it with and without punctuation, as punctuation and spacing make a difference.
  3. Enter variations of Mr., Mrs., Mr. and Mrs., Mr. & Mrs.
  4. When looking for an inheritance, enter variations such as Estate of, The Estate. Those two entries alone bring up 89,073 listings in California and 35,386 in New York. (New York has one account for an estate for $8 million!) However, unless there is a beneficiary named and that name is listed, inheritance accounts will likely never be found.
  5. You may also find listings that are buried in the address. For example:
    Your Bank Name
    Your Name
    123 Main Street
    Anytown USA.

    When it is listed this way, you have to search entity by entity.

    Looking in Other Places

  6. If you had any real estate holdings that were lost to foreclosure or a tax sale, the amount above what you owed (minus court costs and other liens) belongs to you. This money does not get turned over to the state. You can find it in the Clerk of Court office in the county where the foreclosure took place.
  7. Were you a victim of crime and entitled to receive criminal restitution? If so, there needs to be a court order for the money to be released. However, the information sent by the court to the county often does not include the victim’s address. Check with the Clerk of Court in your state.
  8. Did you ever change jobs and leave a retirement plan behind? Check the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. You have to enter your social security number, but it is a secure site and your SSN is not stored. If you had a defined benefit retirement plan, search the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. There are many listings for bankrupt companies such as Eastern Airlines, Jacobson Stores, Panama, and more.

These tips should be enough to get you started. They were taken from my book, The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money that is Rightfully Yours, 4th Edition. It’s available for any bookstore or library to order. It’s also available on Amazon in eBook format and in paperback. The eBook has the advantage of being able to click on the links instead of having to enter the URL. If you don’t have an ereader, there’s an app on Amazon you can get for free.

The book also offers:

  • Additional places and ways to search
  • Tips to prevent your money from going to the state
  • A comprehensive list of places to notify if you have a change of name or address or if you’re an executor of a will
  • Information about each state’s laws regarding professional finders.

One thing to remember: never pay for an online search. Happy hunting!

Mary Pitman is the author of The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money That is Rightfully Yours, 4th Edition. To contact her, email

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of PenChecks Trust™, its subsidiaries or affiliates.


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