Monday, August 27, 2007
Help Me Howard: Found Funds
It's like free money. The state of Florida has a billion dollars they're trying to give away from forgotten or abandoned accounts, but you need to claim it. Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser is here to tell you how.
WSVN -- The Florida vault is always full.
Banker: "You never know what's in here."
A vault filled with one billion dollars. That's "B" as in big bucks, cash, coins, diamonds, all owned by Floridians who forgot about a bank account or didn't know about a safety deposit box owned by a now dead relative.
Banker: "You would be surprised how many people put property in a safety deposit box and forget about it."
Ita Page: "I've forgotten about it. I could do without it."
Ita Page was looking for her social security card when she found this red bankbook.
Ita Page: "I never opened it, but on this day I did, and then I realize, and I run out, and I show my friend and said, 'Look at this, $6,000.'"
Ita then remembered she had opened an account with her cousin in 1986 at the European American bank in New York. A few weeks later she moved to Boston and forgot about the $6,000.
Patrick Fraser: "People watching this are going to say, 'How can you forget $6,000?'"
Ita Page: "I know, I know."
So Ita called the bank. Turns out they had been bought out by Citibank. They told her they didn't have the money, to call New York's Unclaimed Funds where they keep the money, just like Florida does.
Ita Page: "They said they don't know where it is. Nobody knows where the money is."
Patrick Fraser: "Even the State of New York has no idea?"
Ita Page: "No."
Now, in Florida, if an account is dormant for five years, it goes to the state to be kept until you ask for it. Meaning it should now be in the New York vault. They say, "We don't have it." Ita says, "find it."
Ita Page: "I'd like to get my money with interest. I need it."
But what happens if the bank and the state can't find the money. How does Ita get it?
Ita Page: "I really don't know, I don't know, what do you think?"
Good question. Howard, what's the answer?
Howard Finkelstein: "This money was deposited 21 years ago. Ownership of an account or a safety deposit box does not expire. However, if the bank or the state no longer has possession of the money, they need to show were it went."
When I spoke to New York's Unclaimed Funds Department, they told me they had no record of the $6,000 being sent to them.
When I contacted Citibank, they told me, "European American never transferred the money to us when we took over." Meaning the account was cashed out or closed by someone.
Ita did have a cousin's name on the account. It's possible he withdrew the money, but he told Ita he had not, which brings us back to Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "The problem here is that the account was apparently dormant for 21 years. According to the FDIC, banks only have to keep records for up to seven years. That means, in this case, we may never know if the money was lost, withdrawn or stolen. Too much time has passed.
Twenty-one years ago, that $6,000 was extra money for Ita. Today it's needed and likely gone, but Ita is not a finger-pointer. She knows she only has one person to blame.
Ita Page: "It's my fault, I've forgotten about it."
Patrick Fraser: "If you are watching this, there is a good chance you have money in that unclaimed Florida fund. One and a half million people in Miami-Dade and Broward do. Now, you might be saying, 'Not me.' I did and checked and, surprise, there was $300 in my name. I have no idea what its from, and, by the way, it's free to collect the money, just get in touch with the state at their web page, or if you are not a big fan of the Internet, use the phone."
Funds never seem to find their way to you? Feel like you are ready to cash in? Contact us. We aren't rolling in the dough, but we'll try to show you the money for free.
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