WHEELING - One in five West Virginians - and many government municipalities - have unclaimed property and money waiting for them at the West Virginia Treasurer's Office, said state Treasurer John Perdue.
"That shows just how big it is," he said of the list of names on his office's Unclaimed Property fund. "It's amazing how money gets misplaced" and finds its way to the office.
Jewelry, stocks and old coins left in safe deposit boxes, uncashed utility refunds checks and even grant funds left unused by municipalities go into the custody of the State Treasurer's Office.
Most recently, the office returned to the city of Weirton more than $5,200 in unclaimed property - mostly in the form of grant checks never spent, Perdue said.
As state treasurer, Perdue oversees 716,561 unclaimed property accounts that total more than $152 million in unclaimed funds held by his office. The West Virginia Treasurer's Office has returned more than $113 million to state residents since Perdue first took office in 1996, he said.
Perdue attributes the high amount of unclaimed property in the state to the fact West Virginia has an older population.
"We're a senior-oriented state," Perdue said. "Sometimes they like to hide their money from their children, and sometimes they have multiple accounts their children don't know about. And when they settle their estate, they don't find them."
Likewise, the children don't always know about safe deposit boxes where their parents have placed belongings. Former college students in the state also can have money waiting for them in the office, he said. Perdue said they often pay deposits to get utilities while on college campuses, then leave the state without regaining the money due to them.
The Treasurer's Office auctions many of the physical items in their care if their rightful owner isn't located after an extended period of time. The money is placed into an account in the event the rightful heir comes forward to claim the item.
Perdue said his office often is able to locate owners of much unclaimed property through patrons at local senior centers. His employees bring laptop computers with lists of those leaving unclaimed property in their community to the centers, and patrons often recognize names on unclaimed property lists as someone they know. They provide leads to the office.
Perdue suggests state residents also check www.missingmoney.com to see if they have unclaimed property in neighboring states. The state Treasurer's Office unclaimed property division can be reached at 800-642-8687, or at the Wheeling office at 304-232-4778.