CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — If you’re looking for some extra cash, you might be in luck.
The Tennessee Department of Treasury could be holding on to some of it – money you didn’t even know you had!
All states have an unclaimed property division. That means they collect money to get it back to its rightful owner.
Tennessee’s unclaimed property division is a consumer protection program.
Businesses turn over millions of dollars to the state each year when they can’t track down the owners.
Then the treasury department works to get that money back to who it belongs to.
“If you take the number of claims by the number of people in Tennessee, it’s quite possible that 50 percent of Tennesseans could have unclaimed property,” said Shelli King, Tennessee Department of Treasury.
Last fiscal year, Tennessee returned 41,827 property claims, adding up to more than $34 million.
The easiest way to find out if you have money is to go to ClaimItTN.gov.
“You can do a quick search,” King said. “You can look for your name. You can look for actually common misspellings of your name as well. Remember, this is money that did not reach you the first time, so you want to make sure if there was some reason it didn’t get back. Also, I always encourage people to check for their relatives, and check for relatives who are no longer with us.”
The state has other ways of tracking people down.
It alerts residents through Facebook, newspapers – even sending letters in the mail.
That’s how Hamilton County resident Lynn Johnson learned she had $120.
“It’s kind’ve like when you look in your purse for change, and you find a $20 bill in there, and you’re like really excited, but it’s $120, so it’s really even better,” Johnson said.
Johnson says she doesn’t know where the money came from, but she’s happy to have it.
“There are times when you should get money returned to you, but somehow you don’t, and it’s just off somewhere, so it’s great,” she said.
But not everyone is as lucky as Johnson.
News 12 hit the streets of downtown Chattanooga to see who else had unclaimed money.
“I was just pitching to investors to get money for my start-up, so this would be a lot easier,” said Shelley Prevost, a Chattanooga resident.
Most people we talked to hadn’t heard about the state program.
“Awww no results,” said Shane Downey, a Chattanooga resident.
“It’s like waiting for the lottery or something,” said Naveen Lekkalapudi, a Chattanooga resident. “I don’t think I have anything. I was expecting that anyways, so that’s all right.”
Lisa Elrod with Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union says there are steps you can take to better keep track of your money, that way it doesn’t end up in the state’s hands in the first place.
She says keep your contact information up to date with people you do business with.
Also, get a joint owner to your bank account, so they can also have access to the funds.
A beneficiary is another option.
“Let the beneficiary know they’re a beneficiary,” Elrod said. “Keep all your records in one place, and let your loved ones know where they’re kept so that they have immediate access in case that they need them.”
As for Johnson, she still doesn’t know how she plans to spend her now “claimed” money once she gets it.
“You don’t know what you’re going to spend it on yet? Shopping trip? Your horses?” asked News 12’s Emily Cassulo.
“Oh, everything gets spent on the horses. Yeah,” Johnson said.
And she’ll receive that money in at least two weeks.
Tennessee residents: www.claimittn.gov
Residents of all states: www.missingmoney.com
Bradley County residents with unclaimed money:
Hamilton County residents with unclaimed money: