States help out in search for assets

States help out in search for assets

Government-sponsored site posts information on abandoned property and bank accounts

Still waiting for your ship to come in?

A publicly-funded Web site lets people send a digital dragnet for missing money. Didn't know your eccentric uncle made a fortune on his perpetual motion machine patent and you are his only heir? Well, surf on over to www.missingmoney.com, where you can search a national database of abandoned saving accounts, uncollected salary checks and old stock certificates. The project is sponsored by 26 states.

One out of 8 Americans has unclaimed money lurking somewhere in a state coffer, said officials from National Abandoned Property Processing Corp., a financial services company in New York. NAPPCO officials estimate that state governments are holding about $20 billion in unclaimed assets such as stock certificates, uncollected salary checks and inactive bank accounts.

The 26 states, plus Washington, D.C., participate in NAPPCO's MissingMoney.com, which lists $1.75 billion in unclaimed property.

Visitors to the site enter their name, family name or business and ZIP code. The site sends back a list of possible matches throughout the country. It lists the person's name, last known address, property type such as savings account, and if the amount is less than or more than $100. Visitors can click on the highlighted name and fill out and submit an online claim form provided by the state where the claim is located.

Developed and managed by NAPPCO, the site stores financial data from each of the 27 cooperating states in an Oracle Version 8.1.5 database, said Jeremy Katz, vice president of NAPPCO. The site is written in ColdFusion Version 4.5.1 from Allaire Corp. of Newton, Mass., and runs on a Microsoft Internet Information Services 4.0 Web server.

You said how much?

The site data is protected by firewalls from Nokia Inc. of Irving, Texas, and digital certificates from VeriSign Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., which handle encrypted Secure Sockets Layer traffic, said John Romano, NAPPCO operations manager.

Each state verifies the property claims, Katz said. 'MissingMoney.com just provides the conduit for people to see if they may have a claim. Each state has different requirements to prove people are entitled to the property,' he said.

Since the site was launched in late 1999, more than $186 million has been claimed and more than 743,000 people have collected property that was due them, Katz said. More than 40 million searches have been performed on the site, which receives between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors each day, Katz said.

The data is updated about once a month, Katz said.

NAPPCO is funded through contracts with the states to help them recover missing assets. It provides the Web site as a free service to the states, Katz said. There's no charge for searching the site.

The site also provides links to the unclaimed property Web sites of states that do not participate in missingmoney.com.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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