Unclaimed Property: Are you owed money?

The State of California is holding billions of dollars in its Unclaimed Property Program, that is owed to the people of California.
How many times have you fantasized about winning the Lottery and how you would spend your new-found riches?
 
While the odds of that happening are one in 15 million, there is a good chance someone owes you money and you don't even know it.

The State of California is holding billions of dollars in its Unclaimed Property Program that is owed to the people of California.  Some of that money has been sitting there for many years.  The problem ... it's not easy to track people down.

Money ... it's something everybody wants, but fewer people have these days.  As the economy continues to plummet so do dreams of having it all.

If only you could win the lottery or at least stumble upon some money you didn't know you had.

Tracie Markham was recently laid off from the Big West Refinery in Bakersfield.  Last week, 17's Tami Mlcoch paid her a visit to deliver some unexpected news. 

"I have some good news,'' Tami told her. ''I'm doing a story on unclaimed property and I found out you have $1,020 coming to you.  What do you think?"
 
A surprised Markham replied, "That's pretty cool.  I had no idea."

Markham is just one of millions of people in California who has unclaimed money or property and doesn't know it.

"Unclaimed property can consist of inactive bank accounts, utility accounts, any financial accounts, including insurance companies," said State Controller John Chiang.

Chiang is in charge of trying to get the money or property back to its rightful owner.  It's not an easy task considering what's out there.

"Today we have in excess of $5 billion in unclaimed property,'' he said.  ''We have 8 million accounts."

We wanted to know how much of that money is owed to people in Bakersfield.  The State Controller's office looked up four ZIP codes for us ... 93301, 93304, 93308 and 93312. In those areas alone they counted more than $4.3 million!

So, Tami took to the streets to try to track some of those people down. 

She was especially eager to find a woman who's owed more than $6,000 and a man owed close to $4,000, but she came up empty.

However, she did manage to surprise a local Marine.

"I found out that you have $327 coming to you," Tami told Evan Morgan and his wife Jillian. Evan lost both legs and the sight in one eye in a bomb explosion in Iraq. The Morgans are owed money from the State of Colorado, dating back several years.

"I had no idea I had anything like this coming,'' said Evan Morgan.  ''I'd be curious to know the back story behind it."

How are you going to spend it, the Morgans were asked. 

"Decorate my daughter's bedroom or house,'' said Jillian Morgan. ''Definitely the house."

So how do you find out if you have money waiting for you?

It's really simple.  Just log onto the State Controller's website www.sco.ca.gov.  Type in your name and any city in which you've lived and see if anything shows up.

The Unclaimed Property Program in California has been in place since 1959, but not very many people know about it.  State Controller Chiang is trying to change that.

"For the last 20 years, the program has gone backwards.  The Legislature and the governor kept the money to balance the state budget,'' said Chiang.  ''I thought that was wrong and we needed to put the people first.  Over the last year, we've had a record number of claims and money returned.  We want to get every penny back to the lawful owner of these properties."

And that includes the County of Kern, the City of Bakersfield and even KGET, all owed money from the state.

And, we also found someone else who didn't see it coming ... our own Robin Mangarin, who is owed $70.

Again, if you would like to find out if you have unclaimed money or property, log onto www.sco.ca.gov

You can also call the State Controller's office at 1-800-992-4647.

Once you file a claim, the money can take anywhere from 30 days to several months to get back.


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