Volume 3 Number 47
November 20, 2006

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Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that the Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Unclaimed Property, in conjunction with Orlando’s WESH-TV, generated claims for more than $2 million in cash and property for more than 8,700 Central Florida residents during a week of coverage that included an early-morning “live” phone bank.

“It is our mission to find the owners or heirs and return this property to them,” Gallagher said. “In many 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.”

The bureau’s hotline, 1-88-VALUABLE, was open four hours earlier than usual Wednesday and Thursday, and the station had a correspondent reporting live from Tallahassee, encouraging viewers to call as part of a week of daily television reports on the program. The bureau is currently holding unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1.3 billion, including $50 million worth of cash and property for 400,000 account holders in Central Florida. Since 2003, Gallagher, who oversees the department, has returned more than $423 million in cash and property to current or former Floridians – half of all of the cash and property returned since the program’s inception in 1961.

This is the second time this year the bureau has operated a live phone bank in conjunction with WESH-TV. It has also conducted similar phone banks this year with stations in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa. Floridians or
former Floridians can also check for unclaimed property by logging on to www.fltreasurehunt.org.

The extra telephone hours this week resulted in more than six times the normal daily average call volume.

Most unclaimed property comes from dormant accounts in financial institutions, deposits paid to utility companies, insurance benefits and premium refunds, un-cashed payroll checks and trust holdings. The state’s holdings also include property such as watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs.

Until claimed, however, the unclaimed funds are transferred to the state’s School Trust Fund to benefit public schools. Since the program’s inception, more than $1.5 billion has been transferred to the fund.

Gallagher urges Floridians to regularly visit www.fltreasurehunt.org to check for unclaimed property the state may be holding for them. He also offers these suggestions for avoiding losing track of property in the first place:

  • If you move often or expect to move again, keep a record of utility or rent deposits.

  • Follow up if you are due a last paycheck.

  • Keep up with safe deposit boxes and bank accounts. Don’t assume that if you move the bank will hold on to it for you indefinitely – they won’t, especially if you fail to pay required fees.

  • Make sure your bank has your current address.
    Closely read bank statements and correspondence. Banks can merge or be sold and your cash and property could get lost in the shuffle.

  • Make sure you have a will so someone will know what to do with your accounts or the contents of your safe deposit box.

For more information about the Bureau of Unclaimed Property, log on to www.fltreasurehunt.org and click on Frequently Asked Questions.