$14.8 million. Got your attention now? We’ll probably have it even more after we explain some of those millions could be yours.
You see that amount is just a small portion of the money in Alabama’s unclaimed property program, but it's what belongs to some people in the wiregrass.
Tessa Darlington traveled to the state capitol to figure out how to get that cash out of the program and into your bank account.
They're simple vault doors. Heavy, thick pieces of shiny steel; but what they guard is anything but simple.
“When you think of safety deposit boxes, you think what would someone put in a box, and that could range from a to z,” Director of Alabama’s Unclaimed Property Program Ralph Ainsworth said.
These valuables from safety deposit boxes are unique, precious, sometimes one-of-a-kind. Now they're inside this vault at the Alabama State Capitol for one reason.
“A business is required by law to attempt to locate the owner. If they can not after a certain period of time, usually three years, it gets sent to the state along with the last known address of the owner,” Ainsworth said.
The Alabama Unclaimed Property Program goes far beyond diamond rings, antique guns and Elvis-clad pocketknives. There's the money you can't see; accounts holding hundreds, even thousands of dollars that belong to people throughout Alabama. In total the program is sitting on a $600 million pie, and the Wiregrass gets a $14.8 million serving.
"The responsibility that I have that is the most fun is unclaimed property because not often do you get the opportunity to reunite people with their own money,” Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer said.
You’re probably wondering why someone would just let their money sit in a vault. Many people don’t know about it.
“We do find where someone has passed away, family did not know about the safety deposit box, it comes to the state and just like any other claim the person would have to show that this is their box they are the rightful heir, and they are entitled to its contents,” Ainsworth said.
This surprise money is often the answer to their prayers.
“Whether someone is trying to pay for college or just trying to pay their American Express bill,” Ainsworth said.
But there are some items in the vault that are truly priceless.
“Not all the dollar value, a lot of times it is personal. The photographs, the personal letters, military items, sentimental value,” Ainsworth said.
That’s the case for one particular item that showed up on Ralph Ainsworth’s desk.
“It was a gold medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics, and we looked at it and it was for the super heavyweight boxing champion, it's Tyrell Biggs,” Treasurer Boozer said.
There are countless stories almost just like Tyrell Biggs’. When staff members research the accounts or open those safety deposit boxes it's like taking a stroll through someone's lives... their hopes and dreams.
A coin collection that could have been someone's back up plan for a down payment on a house.
An antique Alabama football book that most certainly didn't belong to an Auburn fan.
A Purple Heart that shows some young child just how much his grandfather did for his country.
“This is one of the state jobs that you really enjoy. You get to see a result whether it’s getting an owner their $190,000 or getting an owner fifty dollars. You have a lot of happy folks,” Ainsworth said.
Ainsworth, Treasurer Boozer and their staff want to put smiles on even more faces. Right now the Unclaimed Property division is reuniting nearly $2 million a month with owners. It’s time to spread that joy to the Wiregrass.
The link on this page will take you to a listing of people who have money or valuables through Alabama’s Unclaimed Property Program. Folks listed on that database are either living or have lived in the following Alabama counties: Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Pike.
You can also go to www.moneyquestalabama.gov or call 888-844-8400 to speak with a representative.
Here is the contact information for Georgia’s Unclaimed Property Program.
Here is the contact information for Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program.
(888) 258-2253 or (850)413-5555
On Tuesday, July 24th, 2012, Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer will be joining us for News 4 at Five and Six to explain more about the unclaimed property program.
Also on that day, we will be having a two hour phone bank available at the state capitol in Montgomery.
You can call 888-844-8400 between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to speak with a representative to see if you have any unclaimed property, and if you do, he or she will help you claim it.