Have you ever thought how great it would be if you were digging in a backyard flower bed and turned up a coffee can full of twenty-dollar bills?
That’s not likely to happen, but Joe Dunbar of Bel Aire helps people do the next best thing. He finds money they didn’t know they had and shows them how to get it back from the Kansas State Treasurer’s office in Topeka.
The office returned more than $6 million through the first third of this year. It would give back even more if people who own these assets would simply ask for it. State Treasurer Lynn Rogers said his office is safeguarding more than $400 million in unclaimed assets and that returning that money is “one of my favorite parts of being State Treasurer.”
This property includes such things as court deposits, dormant checking and savings accounts, insurance benefits, oil and gas royalties, safe deposit box contents, stock and cash dividends, utility deposits and wages that people lose track of.
“If people don’t claim it,” said Dunbar, “it stays in the treasurer’s office forever.”
His first find was about 40 years ago when he checked the list for the name of his sister-in-law who had moved from Kansas to Cheyenne, Wyo. He found $3,600, his largest amount so far.
Since then, he’s not sure how many people he’s helped. In all, he thinks he’s probably recovered $10,000. In the beginning, he checked the Topeka website or called the phone number for friends and relatives, but eventually ran out of names.
“At my age,” he said, “it’s sometimes difficult to link people to their property because they are no longer with us. So, I have to track down relatives, and you can go through a lot of people before you find them.”
As his lists grew smaller, he took to checking his church directory and found several more people to help.
“It’s just amazing how many people have property they don’t know about,” said Dunbar. “I looked through the directory and found 10 or 12 people with money in Topeka, and there may be another 15 or so.”
How much do they get?
It varies. Often it’s no more than $5 or maybe $20. But sometimes it can be substantial. Dunbar, who once lived with his wife Dorothy in Garden City, had friends there who had moved to California. He checked their names and got $640 twice for a total of $1,200, all royalties from an oil well.
Young people move frequently these days, Dunbar said, and they frequently forget utility deposits. That money is kept for them in the treasurer’s office.
And, now that he’s run out of names in the church directory, he’s checking out names of people who live inhis independent living complex.
A few of the people he has helped there recently came by his table in the community restaurant. They wanted to thank him for pointing them toward some money they didn’t know they had.
In some cases, it was only $5 or $10. They said it was the thought that counts.
Dunbar isn’t the only person searching for assets. Already this year, more than 300,000 searches have been made on the Kansas Treasurer’s website. The average claim paid was $197.72.
If you want to check for your name, call 785-296-4165 or visit kansasstatetreasurer.com and click on “Unclaimed Assets.”
For other states, visit a website called unclaimed.org.
Contact Ted Blankenship firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: It works!
After reading Ted Blankenship’s story about Joe Dunbar (above), I couldn’t resist checking to see if the Kansas State Treasurer’s office was holding any of my money. The answer was … yes!
I found it by going to the website mentioned in Ted’s article — kansasstatetreasurer.com — and clicking the “Unclaimed Property” button. From there it took only a minute or two to enter the necessary information and discover that a mortgage company had deposited money in my name with the treasurer’s office. I suggest trying all versions of your name as well as the option for using your first initial.
A few days later I received an email stating that a check is on the way.
So what’s my previously unclaimed bonanza? $22.16. I feel like I owe Ted and/or Joe Dunbar a cut.