CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Residents who receive a letter from the State Treasurer’s Office in the next few weeks saying they are due unclaimed property should not throw it away.
State Treasurer John Perdue’s Unclaimed Property Division began sending letters to rightful owners of lost assets last week. The letters direct the owner to the State Treasurer’s website to search for his name and file a claim.
The West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office does not charge a fee to search for or claim unclaimed property. Also, the office does not direct unclaimed property owners to a third party, according to a press release.
The Treasurer’s Office said it will never ask for the owner or anyone to send in money in order to claim the property being held. A scam letter would likely direct the recipient to take opposite actions.
Anyone receiving a letter regarding unclaimed property who has any questions can call the office at 304-558-2937 or 1-800-642-8687.
“It’s true that scam artists are active in the world, but at the same time, we don’t want anyone to miss out on reunification with their lost assets,” Treasurer Perdue said. “Our letters will be distinguished by the above information that runs counter to what a scam would convey. Last year we returned an all-time record of $17.7 million in claims to rightful owners and are always looking to break that mark.”
In the last three years, the Treasurer’s Office said it has begun researching external sources to make sure it is sending outreach letters to the correct addresses.
“We don’t just send letters based on the last known address reported,” said Assistant Director of Unclaimed Property Christina Merbedone. “We search with several external sources, to either obtain an updated address or to verify that the one we have is the most recent.”
Merbedone said the office distributed a 15,000-name list of rightful owners statewide from mid-March to early April. The names appeared as newspaper inserts in the largest paper from each county and were direct mailed to some homes.
“After the insert, we wanted to continue notifying people, but in different ways,” Merbedone said. “It’s a campaign of sorts. We also want everyone to know that these letters are not fraud. Not everyone believes it’s real, and we don’t want that.”
Unclaimed property is defined as any financial asset from which a rightful owner has become separated, such as a final paycheck, a forgotten utility deposit or unbeknownst life insurance benefits. Companies or entities holding these assets are legally bound to report them to the Treasurer’s Office, which then begins the process of finding the rightful owner. Unclaimed property has nothing to do with real estate, the office said.