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Do you know where your money is?

Controller’s Office says there is $5.7 billion in unclaimed property
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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How would you feel if you found the state owed you money? Auburn resident Karen Thompson, a single mother of two, said it felt pretty good to realize $113 that she was unaware of was in her name at the California State Controller’s Office. “You don’t always have $100 fall in your lap,” Thompson said. “It was nice to get.” Last year, Thompson found out through a friend that she had money listed on the Controller’s Office Web site under the “unclaimed property” section. She’s not alone. The office’s Web site states that it’s in possession of $5.7 billion in unclaimed property that belongs to about 11.6 million residents and organizations. According to controller John Chiang, for many years state legislation didn’t allow staff to notify about 80 percent of residents of their unclaimed goods. That changed in 2007 when newly signed legislation allowed the controller’s office to send notices to residents when their unclaimed money is about to become the state’s property. If the money is not claimed after a certain time, it belongs to the state. For some, like Thompson, the process is easy. “I thought I was going to have trouble,” Thompson said. “I didn’t have phone records from years but I just sent in what I did have and they sent me a check.” But that’s not the case for Auburn resident Cheryl Berg. Berg said she found out about a year ago when a company sent her a letter saying they would help collect about $541 in her name for a fee. Instead of paying the company Berg decided to take on the job herself. She said it’s been difficult gathering the information the state wants to prove she’s the rightful owner of the property. She admits that she’s let the process fall to the wayside as a result of some of the roadblocks she’s faced. “It doesn’t happen right away,” Berg said. “It’s a process.” It’s a process Auburn Chamber of Commerce Director Bruce Cosgrove said he would look into. Last week Cosgrove found out the Chamber had $100 of unclaimed property in its name. Cosgrove said he’s unsure why the chamber has $50 in a Motorola insurance premium and $50 from Edward D. Jones & Co. “I’ve been here 26 years and I don’t ever remember paying a Motorola insurance premium,” Cosgrove said. Cosgrove added that he was surprised Chamber staff wasn’t made aware of or didn’t discover the funds earlier. “I don’t think we’d ignore that,” Cosgrove said. “We’d at least follow up and find out what it is and what we’re required to do.” So what would you do with money you never knew you had? Thompson said she doesn’t remember exactly what she spent it on but is sure it went to pay for items for her two children. Cosgrove said if the chamber is able to claim its $100, the money could possibly be put in a fund for one of the many community events the chamber organizes. Berg, who lives on social security, said the $541 sum would simply help her live from day-to-day. But Berg added that she would try to share her newfound wealth. “I should give some away because it’s a little extra blessing, a little surprise I didn’t know I had,” Berg said. “I would probably give some of it away.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- How to find your unclaimed property Wondering if the state has money in your name? Visit sco.ca.gov and click on “Find Your Unclaimed Property.” Then click on “Start Your Search Now.” Enter your name and the city where you live. The Web site provides forms and what kind of documents you should include with your claim. ---------- Come into new money? If you have claimed your unclaimed property from the state or are in the process of doing so and want to share your story, contact Journal Staff Writer Jenifer Gee at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ----------