Unclaimed funds no chump change

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli presents Boatmax owner Max Mazzella with a check for $730 in unclaimed funds.
Photo for Patrick Rocchio
by Silvio Pacifico

If you are thinking unclaimed funds in New York State or the Bronx are mere pocket change, think again!

According to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office, 411,142 borough individuals, organizations, and businesses are owed a collective $212,790,398.06 as of mid-day on Friday, July 26.

DiNapoli was at City Island’s public library branch on July 26 to encourage people to search the Comptroller’s office’s online database to see if they are the owners of any unclaimed funds that are part of $12.5 billion total and 30,000,000 separate entries of abandoned property that New York State has been placed in charge of since the 1940s, he said.

“A lot is already being done with that money, because the reality is that a lot of that money will never be claimed,” said DiNapoli. “But we keep enough money in reserve…so we can return money to New Yorkers.”

Money often ends up in state coffers when bank accounts are dormant and then declared abandoned, when checks from insurance and utility companies are left unclaimed, and sometimes in cases of estates – often requiring additional paperwork for verification, said DiNapoli.

Interested New Yorkers can visit the state comptroller’s website at osc.state.ny.us, and then click on “Our Office” and “Unclaimed Funds” to navigate to a search function.

You can type in your name as well as any other alias you may have, including a maiden name or your original name if it has been changed, as well as variations of your own name like middle initials.

“We try to make the process as painless as possible, as easy as possible,” said DiNapoli.

DiNapoli urged that the public be cautious about services that promise to find you money for a 15% finders fee. While such services are legal, he said, they often send out advertising which look a lot like official government correspondence.

Locating information in the database is free and easy for anyone who has access to a computer, he said.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said that the finders were exploiting people by offering to find information readily available for free. Councilman Jimmy Vacca also said that the returning of money is a relief for taxpayers who are used to sending money to the government.

DiNapoli also presented a check to the City Island Chamber of Commerce and boat-seller Boatmax for money that was due them, $172 and $730 respectively.

“I got a phone call from the Comptroller’s office a few days ago,” said Boatmax co-owner Max Mazzella, who replied “yes and no” when asked if he was surprised by his business’ unexpected surplus.

“I have heard about things like this in the past, but I never thought I would be the recipient,” he said.

“Searching was relatively simple,” said Joseph Prince, 55, who also found unclaimed funds on a library computer.

The most typical amount for unclaimed funds runs from $50 to $100 dollars, said DiNapoli.

Every little bit helps in a slow recovery from the recession, he said.

For City Island’s zip code, 10464, there are 1,086 accounts of unclaimed funds, with more than $1.1 million, the comptroller said, adding “That’s a lot of clams.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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