Indiana’s ‘Secret Vault’ Might Hold Your Unclaimed Treasures!
If you are still feeling bummed out over not winning the recent record-breaking $1.5 billion Powerball lottery prize, you may still have a chance of an finding an unexpected windfall…only this time you won’t have to buy a ticket to win big!
Indiana, like many other states, has a “secret vault” filled with more than $400 million worth of cash and unclaimed property that might just belong to you.
The Attorney General’s office is responsible for the safe-keeping of these assets, most of which come from forgotten bank accounts and safety deposit boxes, but this treasure trove also contains cash put down as security deposits for rented apartments, paychecks that were never collected, unreported change-of-address updates, or simply clerical errors that prevented your money from getting to you. The state is more than willing to give it all back if you prove a legitimate claim to it. Both the State and Federal government work hard to find the rightful owners, but when the trail goes cold, they have to hold onto it and wait for you to discover it.
Most people do not even think to look, but it is quite simple: Indiana keeps a website called IndianaUnclaimed where you can search for your name, family members, friends, and neighbors to see what is out there. Often, the property of deceased relatives ends up here simply because their family never knew it existed! Without a will or further contact information, the government has no way of finding you.
Though it is mostly cash, the contents of safe deposit boxes ends up here as well. Most of it is exactly what you would expect—rare coins and jewelry—but there have been some unusual items as well. When a WTHR reporter was granted access in 2013, she was shown a collection of 39 South African Krugerrand coins, each one ounce of pure gold, worth $1,700 a piece! (That’s $66,300 total!) The Project Manager reported seeing many gold teeth as well.
Unclaimed Property laws require physical property to be held for three years, after which the government will sell the items and keep the money from the sale for you. All cash is held for 25 years. If it remains unclaimed, the state is allowed to the money. Indiana contracts the value estimation out to Goodwill Industries, who also help sell these items via their Auctions website. Several states have also turned to eBay to sell goods via government-run user accounts.
Some items, like a collection of autographed New York Yankees baseball cards from 1929 (including cards signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig), family photos, and a sketchbook containing autographed drawings from artists and cartoonists at the 1992 ComicCon are harder to value due to their personal nature. There are some items that are off-limits from selling, including two Purple Heart medals (awarded to wounded soldiers) that are currently in the possession of the State of Indiana. These are held indefinitely.
The State is required to advertise property collected each year by running notifications in the newspapers located nearest to the last-known address connected to the treasures. Look out for them in July and August. In 2012, $23 million was successfully returned to residents of Central Indiana alone!
Nationally, about $32 billion of unclaimed property is in the possession of State and Federal Governments and an estimated 50% of the population has something waiting for them, including IRS tax refunds that were unable to be delivered due to incorrect addresses. You can search for these using your name (as well as common misspellings and previous addresses) on the Federal Records website. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has a great list of links to try! Often, all that is required to collect your cash is your birth certificate (and death certificates or tax documents in some cases).
If you believe that you have property out there waiting for you, but are having trouble locating it, several reputable pay-to-search services charge a small commission for their detective work.
Another related odd-but-real website run by former police officers, PropertyRoom, sells property collected during police investigations (including previously-stolen or forfeited goods) that are no longer needed as evidence. Yes, this is completely legal—police are required to auction off these items. In the past, this has been done in small local auctions, but some creative officers realized that they had the potential to open up wider sales online in an eBay-like forum. It may not have been yours originally, but it is certainly interesting to check out!
Think back, do some research: do you have any US Savings Bonds that are no longer accruing interest? What about bank accounts from now-defunct banks? Insurance proceeds? Security deposits or utility refunds? Even if you do not find “buried treasure,” there is no risk checking for this reward! (Unlike spending cash on losing lotto tickets…)
Have you ever been surprised as an unexpected heir? Did your relatives save you their golden teeth? Tell us your stories of unusual inheritance in the comments section below!