Reuniting owners with their property is the premise behind all unclaimed property laws. In spite of all of the difficulties holders and state administrators encounter in the day-to-day management of unclaimed property, it is sometimes nice to refocus on this shared goal.
If you’ve been engaged in managing unclaimed property for your organization, you no doubt realize many initiatives are in place to help owners find their property. Most states provide websites where anyone can check for unclaimed property for free, and then advertise the availability of the websites. Third-party companies offer to help owners find property for a fee, but it may not necessary. The primary way owners discover they may have unclaimed property is through the due diligence efforts of holders.
Due diligence is required of holders by every jurisdiction in the United States. Each jurisdiction has its own rules for completing due diligence to find missing owners before property is escheated. However, many holders don’t need statutory pressure to reach out to inactive customers.
Unclaimed property holders realize keeping in touch with customers and keeping accounts up to date is an important part of good service. Locating rightful owners before escheatment allows property owners to avoid having to work through the state to find their property; the reclamation process can sometimes be time consuming.
It just so happens this customer-service practice also helps unclaimed property holders avoid unnecessary escheatment of property. Notifying owners of properties before escheatment occurs allows companies to “right size” escheatment.
Heroic efforts to find unclaimed property owners
With all of these initiatives in place to help consumers find their property, you would think most property owners could be reached easily. That might be true if property owners never changed addresses and if people never changed their names.
Here are a few ways your organization might be able to increase the number of property owners reunited with their property:
Share escheatment information. When a missing owner contacts your company looking for property that has already been escheated to the states, and if customer service is a priority for your company, you can share with the owner where the property is being held. This might sound simple, but many companies would not make the effort.
Pre-escheat services. Some companies hire pre-escheat firms to contact property owners before due diligence letters are mailed. Calculate and compare costs to determine if this is a good service for you.
Automated telephone messages. Because accounting departments often receive a substantial number of phone calls from owners attempting to locate their property, they sometimes set up special voice commands to filter the calls. Voice commands often direct owners to a general unclaimed property website, such as MissingMoney.com.
National Change of Address (NCOA) Processing. Some holders hire service providers to perform an NCOA update of addresses on file. This often uncovers current addresses for owners, which increases the effectiveness of due diligence letters.
State search sites. Owners might ask your staff for help finding state websites to search for unclaimed property. All sites can be found at MissingMoney.com on this state webpage. The state sites are relatively easy to use.
Depending how important reunification is to your company’s customer service efforts, you might decide to go even further. Unclaimed property holders have been known to participate in media communications about unclaimed property in general. If your company has numerous unclaimed accounts, you may even consider releasing a press announcement with company contact information for consumers who believe they may have outstanding money owed to them by your company.