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Money Tip: Regularly Check ‘Missing Money’ Web Sites

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Are you a debtor, struggling to pay bills and possibly facing New York bankruptcy? What if I were to tell you, you might be a creditor and don’t know it? It turns out that government entities track when they owe people money, and sometimes private enterprises scrupulously do so as well—like when Fortune reported that Comcast owed Barack Obama more than $300. There is no central database that tracks who might owe you money, but there are some resources that can help. It’s especially important because often consumers move suddenly without notifying public or private organizations that may owe them.

The U.S. government maintains a Web site that offers some suggestions for where to begin. One, start with a state-level search. In New York, that’s the Office of the New York Comptroller. According to its site, New Yorkers (and former New Yorkers) were owed $15 billion in 2017 but returned nearly $450 million in lost funds to consumers. The kinds of funds turned up by searches on the site vary quite a bit. Often the creditors and the amounts are unspecified, but utility companies, life insurers, and hospitals are frequent hits.

Next are federal government Web sites, like the Labor Department’s Wage and Hours Division, which helps people search for employers that may owe them money. If you did not collect your last paycheck from a crummy job, then maybe the employer responsibly held on to your paycheck. It’s not worth it to leave that money on the table. The U.S. government’s Web site also offers options for finding life insurance funds for Veterans Affairs policies, unclaimed pension benefits, and of course, tax refunds from the IRS.

Third, another common way for people to become unknowing creditors is when their money is deposited or invested in a bank or credit union that has failed. The FDIC, which takes troubled banks into receivership, allows former customers to try to reclaim their funds. There are also resources for depositors at failed credit unions and investors in companies subject to SEC enforcement proceedings. Eligible consumers can claim refunds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for FHA-insured mortgages.

Finally, there’s help from the Treasury Department for people with old, lost, or damaged bonds, and consumers with seriously damaged currency (like $20 banknotes that have been torn in half) can redeem it for clean notes. There’s even a link for U.S. nationals who believe they are owed money by foreign governments.

The U.S. government’s Web site is here (with links to the above-mentioned resources); the Office of the New York Comptroller’s is here. The Fortune article is here.

There all kinds of ways debtors might be owed money and not know it, and searching for missing money, particularly in New York, is easy, free, and better than letting someone else have that money. Finding missing money might not be enough to prevent a bankruptcy filing, but it might perhaps help pay for the filing fees, so if you are experiencing serious financial hardship, than consulting with an experienced New York bankruptcy lawyer can help you assess your options.

For answers to more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.

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