FOX 12 Investigators: State of Oregon holding onto millions of d - KPTV - FOX 12

FOX 12 Investigators: State of Oregon holding onto millions of dollars in unclaimed assets

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When someone get something in the mail promising them money, it's easy to assume it's a scam. But, people might want to think twice if they notice that mail is from the State of Oregon.

The FOX 12 investigators learned the state is holding onto millions of dollars in unclaimed assets and some of it could be yours.

"I got a letter in the mail and it looked like it was from the state, so I opened it, it said I have unclaimed property, or money," said southeast Portland resident Robin McAlpine.

The letter claimed McAlpine had more than $100 bucks in unclaimed property, all she had to do was prove who she was and file a claim with the state.

"I filled it out and took it to the notary who had never seen it before, he was like, 'what is this thing,' and I was like, 'I don't know but it says I have money, over $100 dollars,' so he notarized it and I sent it in," McAlpine added.

McAlpine has been waiting for that money ever since. Her friends feared she fell for a scam. A common thought, according to the state, but this is no con.

The state says it is holding on to nearly $600 million dollars in unclaimed property right now, money that rightfully belongs to Oregonians.

"That's a very significant amount of money, more than you can imagine people would lose," said Patrick Tate of the State Lands Department.

Tate tells FOX 12 his team of employees send out letters every day urging people to claim their cash. Old utilities refunds, inherited trusts, or property from safe deposit boxes people lost track of over the years. 

Maybe they moved away and forgot, or never left a forwarding address. Whatever the reason, all of it gets handed over to the state, eventually.

"Really, we're acting as a custodian, it's kind of like a giant lost and found program if you want to look at it that way," Tate added.

In fiscal year 2016, the state tells FOX 12 it received nearly $70 million dollars in new unclaimed property. That's cash that just sits in the state's Common School Fund until it's claimed.

"Generally, we do one attempt to try to find someone, unless they have safe keeping items, or securities, then we do more work."

If valuables aren't claimed, the state will ultimately auction them off and keep the proceeds. The state is not allowed to spend that money, but can collect interest on every dollar until you claim it.

"We distribute the interest earned on those found out to our K-12 schools. So, that's the big benefit for Oregon citizens in the meantime. It's a great program," said Tate.

And there's the state's advantage to people not claiming their money. It keeps all the interest on your unclaimed cash. Some might argue that's also why the state won't disclose exactly how much a person is owed when they mail out a letter.

Remember, all Robin McAlpine was told, is that she had more than $100 bucks in unclaimed property. She's really owed $3,307.26.

"What," proclaimed McAlpine, when FOX 12 told her. "Oh my god!" 

McAlpine could barely contain herself.

The state tells FOX 12 they choose not to disclose the exact amount a person is owed, to protect them from fraud.

"We like to keep the amount in general terms," said Tate. "We found that if we give them the exact amounts, then anyone who is doing something fraudulent can pick someone who is owed a large amount of money and go after it. So, if it says $100 or greater, really you don't know if you're getting $101 dollars, or $30,000."

Tate said people will find out the exact dollar amount they're getting after a claim is verified and processed.

"I think most of the people that come forward are going to get less than $500, but we have a few that are more, one recently was right at $300,000," said Tate.

So, what if you missed that letter in the mail, or don't feel like waiting for one?

Click here to visit Oregon's unclaimed property website:

Or here to visit Washington's unclaimed property website:

If you've moved a lot, try checking for unclaimed property in every state you've held a job. If you've checked before check again because the state says it gets new names every year. 

The state says in fiscal year 2016, it paid Oregonians nearly $26 million dollars in claims.

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