After almost 40 years of the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, the creator of the program now says more than $300-million in unclaimed property has been returned to current and former Iowans — and there’s much more waiting to be returned.
Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald says the state ends up with massive heaps of money every year from a variety of sources and is continually trying to pass it along to the rightful owners.
“People don’t cash checks of all kinds, paychecks even. People buy stocks and bonds and forget about them,” Fitzgerald says. “Insurance policies that don’t ever get collected on. Insurance companies do pay off a lot of times and send those checks in the mail and people throw them out as junk mail. And banks, people forget about checking accounts, savings accounts and lockboxes.”
Fitzgerald says it’s a simple process to see if you might have forgotten wealth. Just log on to GreatIowaTreasureHunt.gov.
“When you call that up, there will be a place there where you can put in your name,” Fitzgerald says. “Look for yours and also look for your kids’ names, your grandkids’ names. Old Uncle Ed, what ever happened to him? Some people have a name like Fitzgerald and it’s spelled wrong a lot, so look under common misspellings of your name and see if you’ve got any money coming.”
While $300-million has been returned since the program was launched in 1983, Fitzgerald says another 500-million is still waiting to be returned. He says one in every seven Iowans is due some money.
“The average is probably $300 or $400 and that’s still a lot, but some people even if they get $25 back, it means a lot,” Fitzgerald says. “Our biggest claim ever was a gentleman up in Storm Lake got $2.1-million back and there’s a lot of people that are in the thousands.”
State law requires institutions and companies to report unclaimed property to the State Treasurer’s Office every year. The assets are then held until the owner or heir of the property is found.