One surefire way to save money is to not lose track of where it is.
That sounds obvious, but life can get complicated and stuff happens. And that’s why a surprising number of people in South Carolina have unclaimed funds sitting in accounts managed by the state government and electric cooperatives.
“I feel like I won some lottery money,” a cousin of mine said this week, after learning from me that he was on the state’s Palmetto Payback list of unclaimed funds.
Forgotten bank accounts, dividends that didn’t get where they were supposed to go, insurance payments in search of a home, deposits that weren’t reclaimed and forgotten stocks are all examples of how money can end up in the unclaimed property accounts.
Former customers of electric and telephone cooperatives, in particular, seem to have forgotten about lots of money. The co-ops typically make small payments to their customers after the end of each year, which are essentially dividends, but because the co-ops are nonprofits, the payments are called “patronage capital” or “capital credits.”
If a co-op customer moves or dies before receiving the credit and the electric co-op can’t figure out where to send the money, they hold on to it and wait for a claim. Berkeley Electric Cooperative alone has a list on its website of nearly 15,000 people and businesses that have money waiting for them. Most of the amounts owed are less than $100.
Do you have money with your name on it, just sitting on one of those lists? You might be surprised, and it only takes a few minutes to check.
While researching this column, I ran my last name through the state’s searchable database, and the names of a bunch of my co-workers in The Post and Courier newsroom. I quickly found two relatives and two co-workers with unclaimed funds.
“I never thought I was missing anything,” a fellow reporter told me after learning that the state is holding a $185 insurance refund from 1999 in his name.
South Carolina’s searchable database of unclaimed cash has more than $383 million in unclaimed funds, in 1.6 million accounts, according to the S.C. Treasurer’s Office. That sounds like a lot for a state with 4.7 million residents, but accounts can be in the name of a business or trust, and one person can have multiple accounts.
If you find your name in that database, all you’ll find out at first is whether you are owed more or less than $100. Then click on your name in the database and you’ll get some information about where the funds came from, and a claim form.
There’s no cost involved with claiming the funds, but you’ll need to provide some information and possibly a notarized statement. Also, the Treasurer’s Office says it takes about 12 weeks to process a claim, because of high demand.
In addition to the Palmetto Payback database and the lists maintained by the co-ops, there are a bunch of other places you can look for unclaimed funds in your name.
S.C. Retirement System inactive accounts, for people who worked for a participating employer for more than one year: www.retirement.sc.gov/inactive/entry.htm.
South Carolina unclaimed child support funds: www.state.sc.us/dss/csed/abandprop.htm.
Unclaimed U.S. savings bonds: www.treasuryhunt.gov.
Unclaimed money from mortgage refunds, pensions, and more: www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Government-Unclaimed-Money.shtml.
Unclaimed funds held by other states: www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Government-Unclaimed-Money.shtml.
So go on a treasure hunt and see what you find.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.