Where did this unclaimed money come from, and how do I find it?
February 14, 2011 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I received a letter from an "independent refund processing agency" stating that I have a fairly significant amount of unclaimed money from the government, which they offer to send me for a 25% fee (I pay them after I receive the check). Since I'm aware that there are real agencies (such as Keane) that do pretty much the same thing as what this agency is doing, I'm wondering if it might actually be legit, and if so, where on earth can I find this info on my own and avoid the 25% fee?

More info:

- The letter is from W.L. Theodore and Associates/Walter L. Theodore Sr. in Houston, TX. Neither really turned up anything useful in a Google search, but a search of the address in Maps shows what looks like someone's house. Also, the phone number listed has a New Orleans area code, but I suppose that could be a cell phone.

- It's hand signed and dated, which I found a little odd.

- It says this money has been available since 2006, but I don't really know what it could be from since was in the middle of college at that time, don't really recall working more than a minimum wage summer job that year, and probably didn't even earn the amount that the letter says I'm owed.

- I can't find anything in the databases of states I've lived in, or on missingmoney.com, and unfortunately the site from this comment that seemed to turn up a lot of results doesn't work anymore.

Is this just wishful thinking, or is it possible I have a wee pile of money hiding somewhere that this guy in Texas has found for me? Are there alternate ways of finding it that I'm just not aware of?
posted by covert werewolf to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a counterfeit check scam to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:34 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Every once in a while, I'll find myself or a friend on some state's unclaimed deposits / refunds list. Do a search for your name plus the names of states or cities where you've lived before, and you might find yourself on say, Rhode Island's list of unclaimed bank deposits.
posted by zippy at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2011

Don't do this. You've looked for unclaimed property from the legit government and haven't found any. I might be tempted if the circumstances were plausible, but since you don't even think you earned the money in question, it's most likely a scam. The fact that "W.L. Theodore and Associates" appears nowhere online is also certainly suspect.
posted by zachlipton at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2011

Report it to your local police. This is fraud on many levels and you will be doing yourself and others a favor
posted by zombieApoc at 6:52 PM on February 14, 2011

This does sound fishy, but I had this happen to a family member, and she did indeed have money owed. In her case, we could find the "unclaimed property company" online and it was well respected (as much as possible) and in the business of matching lost funds with owners for a fee. We did some searching and found the money on our own - it also did not show up in the "missing money" type sites.

My tips, think about where the money could come from...if it's potentially from an investment (inherited IRA, etc.) then I would check with the major brokerage houses - just call and ask.

You mention it says from the government. If they are legit I would start with the social security administration...

If the letter has a contact #, go ahead and call. Just don't send any money or cash any checks, or give any personal information until you are sure. If they are legit, they will have no problem telling you who they are (in a manner which you can trust) and the procedure to get the money. If they are not legit and you are wary, it won't take long for them to slip up or lose interest...

If there is no contact #, I would take this as another red flag.
posted by NoDef at 7:00 PM on February 14, 2011

This doesn't just sound fishy to me, it sounds phishy. A "company" with zero presence anywhere, located in someone's house, with a cell phone number from a different state than the address is a very different thing from getting a mailing from Keane or another established company in the field.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:11 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, it sounds sketchy. Many states, if not most or all of them (including 100% of a sample set of 7 states whose websites I checked) limit the fee 3rd parties like this can collect to 10% so it seems suspicious that they are asking for a 25% cut.
posted by phoenixy at 7:18 PM on February 14, 2011

Mississippi is among the states that limit third-party fees on unclaimed property, so.

It's certainly not all states that do (otherwise Keane and Kensington and the other one, whose name is eluding me) would be out of business.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2011

Do you have warrant? I know for a fact that the Springfield, MO police department sent out hundreds of letters with essentially the same story telling people to meet at a Clarion hotel convention room to do paperwork and claim unrefunded tax monies.

Upon arrival they were greeted by police and taken to the police station by paddy wagon in groups for booking. This was in 2004.
posted by sourwookie at 7:43 PM on February 14, 2011

Response by poster: Heh, no. No warrant.

As for the letter, I was pretty hesitant to follow up on it anyway, so since everyone's pretty much confirmed what I was worried about I think I'm just going to leave it be. I suppose if it's real money it'll end up in the state databases eventually, and if not, I'm no poorer.
posted by covert werewolf at 8:27 PM on February 14, 2011

Call the appropriate state agencies. I had this happen to me a few years ago, found nothing online, then called up the agencies and said "I know this is a long-shot, but...". Turns out I wasn't the primary person listed but it was still mine, and an actual person doing the search on the other end found the appropriate details quickly.
posted by straw at 8:28 PM on February 14, 2011

:)http://www.unclaimed.org/ will link you to the state's unclaimed funds/property agency

Always fun to look and hope anyway
posted by legotech at 9:09 PM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

The www.unclaimed.org site is legit. You can go directly through the state to collect unclaimed funds - no third party needed. (At least, this was my experience in California) Good luck!
posted by Space Kitty at 9:22 PM on February 14, 2011

Your member of congress can help you track down money owed to you by the government.
posted by Buffaload at 9:26 PM on February 14, 2011

Hey, sweet! I have never seen that unclaimed.org web site before, but I just found my sister on it. Legotech & Space Kitty, thank you!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:01 AM on February 15, 2011

If anyone is watching this thread....what do you do when you find your grandfather on a list of unclaimed property...his only son (my father) just passed away.... any idea if it's even worth pursuing trying to get the money?
posted by TuxHeDoh at 6:03 AM on February 16, 2011

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