I still remember a few years ago when my brother called me up, his voice amplified with excitement. "I found $3,000 in cash owed me!" Eager to share in the bounty, I quickly offered him congrats and moved on to inquire where my own owed cash might be hiding. He explained there are certain websites that could tell me if any of the literally millions of dollars in unclaimed cash floating around in this country might be mine. I could hardly wait to end the call so I could start searching. Unfortunately, I didn't win the "unclaimed cash" lottery that day…or any day thus far. But it’s certainly not for lack of trying. Because there are so many great resources, we have split this post into two parts. Here in part one, meet the first five resources that can help you track down funds due you!

A note about search & finder’s fees 

According to NAUPA, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, with only rare exceptions, you should never pay to search for money owed you—or to claim it (outside of small processing fees some entities may charge). You may encounter private entities that acquire consumer data and use it to solicit finder’s fees from customers who are hopeful of recovering unclaimed funds. But you can do the very same searches for free on your own!

P.S. The MIB Solutions website listed below charges $75 per search—this is a privately owned company that’s a rare exception to what you've just read. There are other free ways to search as well—read on below to learn more.

Best websites to research unclaimed money owed you

According to USA.gov, unclaimed funds may come from a variety of diverse sources, including former employers, pensions, savings bonds, refunds on mortgage fees and more. Here are some of the best websites for finding unclaimed cash.

1. Unclaimed.org

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) runs Unclaimed, a state-by-state website that provides an easy interface to search for unclaimed funds. You can find all kinds of unclaimed cash on this site—from unclaimed rental deposits to un-cashed refund checks and more.

Here’s what to do to search online (you can also do searches by phone or mail if you prefer).

  1. First, click on your state of residence (you can do this for any state you’ve lived in in the past as well).
  2. You’ll then be taken to the state-specific website.
  3. Enter your last and first name.
  4. Click "enter" and the website will display any cash owed you.
  5. If you have other previous last names, follow the instructions along the left-hand sidebar to perform additional searches.

2. MissingMoney.com

Missing Money is another great state-by-state site where you can search for unclaimed funds from a wide variety of sources, including financial accounts, escrow, uncashed wage checks, insurance policies, trust funds and more.

Here’s what to do to search online.

  1. Enter your last name, first name and state of residence (do this for any other states in which you have resided in the past as well).
  2. You’ll then be given a list of any name matches with the last known address and the company reporting the unclaimed cash.
  3. If you see any potential matches, click on each in turn and answer some questions to see if perhaps the unclaimed cash is yours!

3. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

That's right—there’s actually a chance the IRS might owe you cash you haven't claimed. According to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), every year taxpayers fail to claim more than $150 million dollars in tax refunds.

Here’s how to use the NTU finder to search for unclaimed refund money.

  1. Visit http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/does-irs-owe-you-money/.
  2. Scroll down to where you see the Finder tool.
  3. Enter your last name, state and tax year (you can check for multiple years).

Here’s a second tool you can use to check for unclaimed tax refund cash.

  1. Visit http://www.irs.gov/Refunds to learn what you need.
  2. Navigate to "Where's My Refund?" (or just click here: https://sa1.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp).
  3. Enter your social security number, filing status and exact refund amount from your tax return.

4. Treasury bonds

Since the U.S. Treasury Department is in charge of administering the federal government's savings bond program, they’re also the department responsible for administering payouts when bonds mature. However, if they can’t find a bondholder, the cash remains unclaimed—unless the bondholder decides to be proactive to look for the missing money!

If you think you might have unclaimed savings bond funds, here’s how to check.

  1. Visit TreasuryDirect's Treasury Hunt website: http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_treasuryhunt.htm.
  2. Scroll down to see search options (there’s a PDF form for undeliverable bonds and another form for lost/stolen/destroyed bonds).
  3. Keep scrolling until you see Check Treasury Hunt—Start Search! Click on "Start Search" (or simply click here: https://www.treasurydirect.gov/TH/BPDLogin?application=thpublic&page=thpublic).
  4. Enter your social security number.
  5. If you have unclaimed cash, the system will return information you need to claim the funds.

5. Life insurance policies

If you have unclaimed funds from a life insurance policy, there’s a private company called MIB Solutions that can help you search for the missing money. Just be as sure as you can that you do potentially have unclaimed life insurance cash, because it will cost $75 per search performed. However, be aware that MIB Solutions is a legitimate non-profit, member-owned corporation that has been in operation since 1902.

Here’s how to search using MIB Solutions.

  1. Visit the Policy Locator page: http://www.mib.com/lost_life_insurance_howto.html.
  2. Choose online or by mail and review the terms and conditions.
  3. Pay and submit your order request.
  4. If you have unclaimed funds, the policy locator report will tell you how to claim those funds.

Here’s an alternate free search option.

For similar articles, check out:

Negotiate Your Medical Bills: A Rx for Savings

Do You Know About Gift Card Expiration Date Laws?

7 Rental-Property Fees You Should Never Pay

How to Find Money Owed to You in Any State, Part I