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Unclaimed Funds Find Their Rightful Owners

Patti Singer

Sheri Dozier Owens, Central New York regional director for the Office of the Comptroller, explains to a Rochester resident how to search for unclaimed funds. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Eric Kittles figured it wouldn’t cost him more than couple of minutes to see whether he had any money coming to him.

After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

“It was a fishing expedition,” he said. “I didn’t really think there would be anything. I was very surprised my name was on the list.”

Kittles learned he’d once overpaid a utility bill, and for whatever reason, the extra amount never made it back to him.

Until he checked the website of the Office of State Comptroller, which holds onto unclaimed money until the rightful owners are found.

“I would suggest anyone go through the process,” he said. “You never know.”

Kittles, who works at the Boys & Girls Club on Genesee Street, took advantage of an event June 29 with Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and state Assemblyman Demond Meeks to help residents learn whether there were unclaimed funds in their name.

The money can come from a life insurance policy that family didn’t know existed or forgot about, a bank account from a person who died suddenly or didn’t have his or her affairs in order or even bail money that wasn’t claimed after the person returned to court.

People can check anytime at the website

DiNapoli had staff on site to help people look up their names or those of relatives and to navigate the process of making a claim.

People also can call (800) 221-9311. If you’re struggling with the website or need other help, call the regional office at (315) 428-4583.

There is no charge to look up whether you have money coming to you or to reclaim funds from the state.

New York state is holding onto $17 billion from more than 44 million languishing accounts that it’s trying to return to rightful owners. In Monroe County, more than 243,000 accounts have more than $108 million.

“Just recognizing that it’s really trying times and anything that will account for a leg up of sorts, that will assist people, we’re in support of that,” Meeks said. “If a person knew there was money out there that belonged to them, they would definitely want to take advantage of it.”

Vicky Porter knew about the event in advance and checked her own name. That came up empty but she found an account in the name of her late father and she received help with what she needs to do to claim the money.

“I just searched and looked up my dad,” she said.

Tysy Hughes and Queen Lockett did not have any accounts in their name, but said it was worth checking.

“I think it’s helpful, especially with this pandemic,” Lockett said. “To find you had something, kudos to those people.”

Meeks said there was one claim in the state for more than $1 million, but most claims are for less than $100. Still, that’s extra money for groceries and gas.

Representatives of the Boys & Girls Club, Catholic Family Center of Rochester, Asbury United Methodist Church and Center for Youth received funds that were due to them and said the money would go back into services for at-risk populations.

DiNapoli said the fact that non-profits have unclaimed funds doesn’t signal any mismanagement. He said the money could be a check that wasn’t cashed or a small bank account that was overlooked. He said organizations should check quarterly to see if they have any money coming back to them.

Meeks said he was not aware of comptroller visiting Rochester to promote unclaimed funds in several years. He said he’d like to make this a regular event and pair it with financial literacy by working with trade unions and other organizations.