State’s new way to return unclaimed property; now they may come looking for you

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Last year, some of the state’s unclaimed valuables were auctioned off during the Illinois State Fair. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Illinois residents now may get back their unclaimed property before they even file a claim — if they qualify for the state treasurer’s new “Money Match” program.

The most common types of unclaimed property are unpaid life insurance benefits, forgotten bank accounts and unused rebate cards, said Greg Rivara, spokesman for Treasurer Michael Frerichs. If an account has been dormant long — typically five years — and the owners can’t be found, it is reported to the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division. And if the true owner is found, the property is returned at no charge.

Sometimes, the state runs out of space for some of the bulkier unclaimed items — clocks, watches, coins and the like. Eventually, those are auctioned off, but the state holds the proceeds for the owners, in case they come forward.

“Money Match” searches state records to find unnamed properties and matches them with the Department of Revenue’s tax records to try to connect unclaimed cash with qualifying Illinois taxpayers, according to Rivara. The property must have only one owner and be $2,000 or less. The goal, according to Frerich’s office, is to return more money, more quickly.

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Rivarasaid the program was launched this month and the office is returning around 63,000 claims, which amounts to around $12,000.

“We had to launch it in stages to accommodate the outgoing mail,” he added. “We started downstate and gradually have moved up to the Chicago area.”

Some residents didn’t even know they had unclaimed property until they received a letter from the state,Rivara said.

In Cook County there are nearly 35,000 unclaimed properties, worth about $6.9 million.

The previous process required individuals to initiate a claim. Now, the state reaches out after identifying the owner; to do that, it must have enough information on file to confirm the identify of the person, the value and the address, according to Rivara.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, $180 million was returned — more than 116,000 claims, with an average value of $1,552.

Once the legislature gave the go-ahead, the state started this year to identify properties that met the Money Match program requirements.

Rivarasaid residents can still do it the old way, by searching the public database for their unclaimed property.

“We are holding more than $2 billion in unclaimed property,” he said, “and we’re actively trying to give it back to the people it belongs to.”

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