What is Project Unclaimed?
Project Unclaimed is the result of an independent learning contract in the computer sciences. The goal of the project is to return as much unclaimed property as possible to its rightful owners using automated techniques.
Unclaimed property is property that has been turned over to the government by companies who cannot get in contact with its owner. This property can be cashier's checks, savings accounts, refunds, pensions, stock dividends, and much more. To search for unclaimed property in the state of California, click here to go to the official government website (or just Google "California Unclaimed Property Search").
"Unclaimed Property laws in the United States provide for two reporting periods each year whereby unclaimed bank accounts, stocks, insurance proceeds, utility deposits, un-cashed checks and other forms of 'personal property' are reported first to the individual state's Unclaimed Property Office, then published in a local newspaper and then finally the property is turned over to the State for safe keeping until its rightful owner makes a claim. The states sponsor a free public site that reports only a portion of the unclaimed property available in the United States. There are commercial sites as well that provide the same information or portions of the information for a fee. Some consumer reporting sites that conduct the research and assist consumers will do so without charge or expense to the consumers."
As you can see, not much is done by companies or the government to return this property. There are some for-profit companies out there that contact people, let them know they have unclaimed property, then make the owner sign a contract to give the company a percent if the company tells them how to get it. Project Unclaimed is a project designed to inform and help everyday people reclaim property. I've written computer programs to grab data from these government websites, get contact information for the property owners I've found, then call these people and let them know of the property.
Unclaimed Property Data
How to Claim
Most properties can be claimed electronically. These are properties that are under $5,000 in value, have only one listed owner, and are not cashier's checks or safe deposit boxes. To claim your property electronically, find the property details screen of the property you wish to claim, then click the "Claim This Property" button at the bottom. You'll be redirected to a screen asking for personal information to confirm your identity. They will ask for first and last name, date of birth, current address, and social security number. DO NOT enter this information anywhere but on the government-owned (.gov) website! After entering the information, just click continue, and the property should be on its way back to you!
If, after you press continue, you see a message saying you may not claim this property online (or if, for another reason, you know you can't claim it online), all you have to do is print out the claim form, fill it out (and possibly notarize it depending on the amount), then send it back in.
If you need help or just want more information on the claiming process, check the Claim Filing Instructions and Forms page on the California government unclaimed property website.