Companies offer to return unclaimed money - for a fee

CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) -- We've reported many times about the billions of dollars the state is holding in your unclaimed property. Now many companies are offering to help you find your abandoned property.

Should you pay them? An East Bay woman came to 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney instead.

Sharon Faison of Concord got really excited when she first received the letter in the mail. "It was like, oh wow. Money!" she said.

A company had found some abandoned IBM stock that belonged to Faison. And it offered to get it back for her... for a fee.

"When I got the letter, it was like yeah, who doesn't need money!" said Faison.

At first she jumped at the offer. Then she had second thoughts.

"They were asking me to sign an agreement... whatever they found, they were going to be entitled to a percentage and none of it felt like anything I wanted to do," she said.

The company would keep 10 percent of the stock's value. Faison would have to turn over her Social Security number, driver's license and a notarized claim form to an unfamiliar company.

"I said wow, wait a minute -- that's when I felt uneasy," Faison said.

It was her stock. Why should she pay to get it back? Or turn over all that personal information?

"I thought 7 On Your Side would definitely be a help," said Faison.

And so the 7 On Your Side team showed her how to claim her property herself -- and for free.

First, Faison and 7 On Your Side go to the state controller's website.

"It says, search for unclaimed property. Should I hit that tab?" asked Faison during the meeting. She clicked the link, then it was as simple as typing in her name -- and bingo. Three items came up with her name and address.

"It looks like cash, it's $73 dollars! This is totally different," exclaimed Faison.

By surprise, she found some forgotten wages from an old job. "Is this the lottery?" she laughed.

And then, there it was! The lost IBM certificates, just begging to be claimed.

"Oh my goodness, this is wonderful!" said Faison.

Faison filled out the forms herself -- and is awaiting the return of her stocks.

It's perfectly legal for companies to offer to help you claim your property. However, they can't charge more than 10 percent of whatever they actually recover for you. And they must follow a host of rules for claiming cash on behalf of you, the owner. They usually require you to sign an agreement with certain conditions.

Or, you can do what Faison... find it yourself!

"This is so awesome. 'Claimit'! Everyone should be claimin' it in California. See what you have out there," said Faison.

The controller is holding about $10 billion of our unclaimed property. So it's worth it to see if any of it belongs to you. It's easy to check. Go to www.claimit.ca.gov for California properties. To search for property in other states, go to www.unclaimed.org. Follow the prompts and be sure to let 7 On Your Side know how it goes!



Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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