Watch Mail For Potential Unclaimed Property Notices
From now through the spring, the State Controller’s Office is sending out hundreds of thousands of notices to owners whose property will be transferred to the State after June 1, 2014. These notices are sent out before the property is to be transferred to give owners an opportunity to retrieve their property directly from the business holding the property. The notice includes the name and contact information of the business holding the property. If you receive the notice, please contact the business listed as the Controller's office does not yet have the property. If you are not able to retrieve your property from the business by June 1, you will be able to claim it from the State Controller’s Office once the business transfers the account and it is loaded into the State Controller’s database. See a sample notice.
Electronic Filing of Claims
The State Controller’s Office now accepts electronically-submitted claims for many properties under $500. To find out if you have property that can be claimed electronically, start your search here. If you find property that belongs to you, the site will ask you for certain information and then let you know if the property is eligible for online filing. This new online feature can allow your claim to be processed more quickly than traditional paper claims, with payment generally issued within 14 days.
If a paper claim is required, the site will provide instructions on how to complete that process.
The State Controller's Office has received complaints from the public about emails received from individuals who claim to work for the State Controller. The emails instruct the recipient to contact a private attorney for assistance in recovering their lost and abandoned property, including that from a relative’s estate. The State Controller does not send out unsolicited emails about unclaimed property, nor would he refer individuals to a private attorney. It is a violation of state law for individuals and companies to falsely identify themselves as representing a state official. If you receive similar solicitations, please forward them to the Controller's office at EOInquiry@sco.ca.gov so the Controller's legal office can pursue appropriate action. The Controller strongly recommends that you not respond to these false solicitations, as the senders are seeking personal information and will charge fees for recovering property that you can obtain for free by searching here.
A Message from the State Controller
Since taking office in 2007, returning unclaimed property to its rightful owners has been one of my top priorities. Now, my office is using technology to more efficiently allow you to claim your property online. I am pleased to announce that property owners can now electronically submit claims for more than 18 million accounts valued at less than $500, and this new online feature can allow your claim to be processed more quickly, with payment generally issued within 14 days.
If you find property that belongs to you, the site will ask you for information and then let you know if the property is eligible for online filing. If a paper claim is required, the site will provide instructions on how to complete that process. I encourage you to give us your feedback here.
Photos: See unusual unclaimed property
These charts offer a good overview of my office’s successful efforts:
- Total Unclaimed Properties Returned to Owners
- Shares of Unclaimed Securities Returned to Owners
- Unclaimed Cash Returned to Owners
- Unclaimed Property Notices Mailed to Owners
I also want to share with you the significant improvements that my office has made:
Notifying Owners Before Their Property Is Sent To The State: For two decades, misguided state laws restricted the State Controller's Office from contacting the owners of more than 80% of all unclaimed property accounts sent to the State. In August 2007, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed legislation I sponsored that allows my office to send property owners notices before their property is transferred to the State. In Fiscal Year 2011-12, those notices resulted in 206,179 properties being claimed before they were even sent to the State. From January 2007 through the end of December 2012, my office sent out 7.5 million notices – 2.3 million warning owners their property was about to be sent to the State, and another 5.2 million notifying owners their property had been sent to the State.
Established A Locator Unit: We re-established a unit that aggressively finds and tracks down owners to reunite them with their property. Our priority is to notify owners who had never received a notice due to the previous restrictions on our ability to notify owners.
Retention Period for Property of no Commercial Value: In January 2012, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed legislation I sponsored that allows the State Controller to keep property deemed as having no commercial value for seven years, instead of 18 months. This provides more time for owners to claim family heirlooms, photos, and other items that may have special value to them.
Upgraded The Claims Processing System: The new database system allows staff to more easily search for properties and process claims more efficiently. We also have begun posting properties to our unclaimed property search page on the Internet within weeks after they are reported by businesses transferring the property, rather than taking a year before posting the properties.
In just the first year after these reforms, we were able to send out 2.5 million notices; more than double the 1.2 million notices we sent during the past decade. Without these reforms, only 509,000 notices would have been mailed to owners, instead of the 7.8 million notices mailed through the end of December 2012.
I also successfully sponsored legislation to protect owners by prohibiting financial institutions from sending the contents of safe deposit boxes to the State if the owner has other active accounts. The law prohibits the transfer of other “inactive” accounts if the owner has an active IRA. The law also requires businesses seeking to avoid liability for wrongly sending property to the State to prove they sent due diligence notices informing owners that their property was about to be sent to the State. This provision gives property owners an important legal remedy against the business should they suffer a loss due to the business' failure to properly notify the owner.
I want Californians to know that I am putting them first. I realize there is much more work to do, and I will continue to improve the State's ability to put property back in the rightful owners' hands.
Reforms I Am Pursuing:
- Restore interest paid on claims.
- Impose strict penalties on banks, utility companies, and other businesses that fail to comply with the law and notify their customers of unclaimed property they are holding.
I will continue to pursue reforms to the Unclaimed Property Program and invite your suggestions and support along the way. My intent is to restore the public's confidence that their lost property will be safeguarded by the State until property owners can claim what is rightfully theirs.
California State Controller
- Consumer Information
- Frequently Asked Questions
- About Investigators (For Consumers)
- Property Owner Advocate
- Reporting Unclaimed Property
- Notice To Investigators
- Investigator Handbook and Forms
- Investigator Frequently Asked Questions
- Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines
- Online Auction
- Contact the Unclaimed Property Division