Volume 3 Number 21
May 22, 2006

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Department continues to pro-actively search for owners and heirs

Two auctions have been scheduled for this summer in Jacksonville and Tampa to sell an overflow of jewelry, collectibles and historical items that are fast filling up the state’s unclaimed property vault.

The auctions will be held July 14-15 in Jacksonville and August 25-26 in Tampa, with proceeds from the auctions to go to Florida’s public schools. For more information, visit www.fltreasurehunt.org and click on auction.

Since 2003, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, has returned nearly $300 million in cash and property to current or former Floridians. That’s about one-third of all of the cash and property returned since the program’s inception in 1961. The department is currently holding unclaimed property valued at more than $1 billion.

“In the fast pace of modern life, it is easy to forget to collect a last paycheck, close a bank account, or get a utility deposit back,” Gallagher said. “But we’ve made it just as easy to find it. With the click of the mouse or a phone call you might find lost treasure.”

Owners or heirs can claim their cash or property for free by logging on to www.fltreasurehunt.org or by calling 1-88-VALUABLE (1-888-258-2253.)

Most of the property comes from dormant accounts in financial institutions, deposits paid to utility companies, insurance premium refunds, un-cashed payroll checks and trust holdings. In addition to cash and securities, the state’s holdings include property such as watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items that are delivered from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

When the owner or heirs cannot be found, unclaimed cash and proceeds from the auction of unclaimed property are deposited into the State School Trust Fund, although the money always remains available for the owners or heirs to claim.

To supplement its efforts to locate owners, the department has teamed up with several news organizations, including Telemundo, WTVJ and Dateline NBC, and many newspapers, to help bring attention to the program. Tonight, a team of unclaimed property specialists will be in the studio of WESH-TV in Orlando taking calls live during the evening news broadcast.

“It is our mission to find the owners or heirs and return this property to them,” Gallagher said. “In many of these cases, we are returning money or property to people who really need it. It comes at a time that makes a real financial difference for them.”