Unclaimed Property: tracking down what's yours - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Unclaimed Property: tracking down what's yours

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While governments from local to federal battle with budgets and families from coast to coast struggle to make ends meet, the State of Wisconsin is sitting on a pile of money, and some of it may be yours.

State Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass took 27 News on a tour of some of the state's tens of millions of dollars worth of unclaimed property.

Most of this stuff comes from safe deposit boxes that banks turn over to the state after five years of no rental payment. Sass says they do come across some strange things like, baby teeth, umbilical cords, even kleenex. They've also found guns, which get turned over to Capitol Police.

The state keeps the contents of safe deposit boxes for three years, and if no one claims it, the treasurer puts it up for sale.

Sass says they've had seven internet auctions on eBay so far, sometimes making as much as $15,000, which goes into the state's unclaimed money account. And, they've made four times what they used to make, when items were simply posted on a state surplus website.

The next auction one will be right after Thanksgiving. But by far, the bulk of the unclaimed property in Wisconsin is money. For example, if you lived here in college and moved to say, California, you may have forgotten a paycheck.

From paychecks, to rebates and refunds, even life insurance settlements. If no one claims it, it ends up with the State Treasurer. Sass tells us they have $330,000,000 right now: about $305,000,000 in cash and $36,000,000 in stocks and dividends."

State statues do not allow the state to use the money to pay off debt, but what the state can and does do is earn interest on those unclaimed millions, which then goes to pay for every single school library in the State of Wisconsin and for low interest loans for communities.

And it can be tough to get that money back to the people it belongs to. Last year, the state pushed out almost $25,000,000, but a new $35,000,000 came in, so it never really goes away.

But still, there's that core fund of about $330,000,000 that belongs to someone, so we got a few names from the list and set out to give back some money.

We tried three homes and couldn't track any of them down, so you can see the trouble the state has.

But you don't have to wait for someone to knock on your door to find out if you have money coming. It's as easy making a toll-free call to the State Treasurer at 1-877-699-9211 or by going online.

Then they'll send you a claim form. To get your money, you'll need to prove you lived at the last recorded address for the check, return the claim form, and, if it all checks out, you should get your check or property in about six weeks.

But, don't stop at the state level. The feds are holding plenty of unclaimed refund money; even more with the economic stimulus checks.

In Wisconsin, there are over 2,600 economic stimulus checks, totaling about $1.4 million, that have been returned to the Internal Revenue Service.

And it's important for taxpayers who are on the list to contact the IRS by November 28, so they receive their check by the end of the year.

The toll-free number to call the IRS is 1-866-234-2942 or you can go online to their website.

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