ANNAPOLIS – A 47-year-old Silver Spring man received a check for $145 from a state pension fund.
A 74-year-old Silver Spring woman got $340 from an inheritance from her deceased mother.
And a 60-year-old Comus, Md., man will be receiving $53 from a Virginia check that he says is a mystery to him.
The three are among the many reclaiming property they didn’t know they were entitled to, with help from the Maryland comptroller’s office. The office knows of more than 300,000 unclaimed property accounts, worth more than $106 million.
“At first I thought it was a gag,” said Charles Fenyvesi of Comus, who received notification of the unclaimed $53 check two months ago.
“It’s a puzzle: Why would anyone from Virginia send me a check for $53?” he added. “When I get the check … maybe I’ll figure out who it is [from].”
Unclaimed property is typically money, but includes abandoned stocks, bonds and security deposit boxes. An account is considered unclaimed if there has been no activity in it in five years.
Financial institutions and businesses are required to report unclaimed accounts to the state, which attempts to contact the owed parties. Eighty days later, unclaimed accounts are turned over to the state.
The contents of security boxes are auctioned throughout the year, awarding recipients the contents’ auction price.
The comptroller’s office publishes new names twice a year in an eight-page advertisement in local newspapers. The most recent ad ran in 29 Maryland newspapers Oct. 13-23, listing 6,000 names.
The advertisement “allows you or your friends to see your name,” said Assistant State Comptroller Marvin Bond.
The office also publishes information about the list on its Web site, at http://www.comp.state.md.us/unclaim.htm. The Web site allows users to search a database of new names.
In 1997, the comptroller’s office returned $10.8 million to 8,977 individuals and businesses, said Marc Apter, a spokesman for the office. Claims averaged $1,206, he said.
There is no statute of limitations on the claims, and the property can be awarded to owners or their legitimate heirs at any time.
“If you don’t see your name, [the money is] not lost to you. We will still honor it into the future,” Bond said.
The office has received close to 60,000 calls this year, a 51 percent increase from last year’s total of 39,300, Apter said. Almost 6,000 of this year’s calls have been about the October ad, he said.
Once a claims form has been returned to the state, it takes about six weeks for individuals to receive their money, Bond said.
Joyce Kahl, a Silver Spring housewife, was surprised when she learned a few months ago she had $340 coming to her from bonds owned by her mother, who died in 1995.
“It was a complete surprise because her things were all in order,” said Kahl, 74. “[I] don’t know how it slipped through.”
But some recipients say the return is not fast enough.
“[The comptroller’s office] told us about [the money], but then it’s like, `What hoops do we have to jump through?’ And then we have to keep jumping,” said Robert Hall Young of Derwood, Md., who said he received $8,225 a few months ago.
Young, 68, said the money was part of an inheritance left by his stepmother. Young was first contacted almost a year ago about the money, in a letter directing him to fill out a form that was not included. When he did get the form, he said, he “had to keep trying to follow up” to receive the money, which came more than six months later.
Larry Goldberg of Silver Spring said he received notice from the state of unclaimed money sometime in August. Goldberg, 47, on Nov. 1 received a check for $145. It was money he had paid during 1988-89 into a state retirement fund.
Despite some delays, recipients say it is a good program.
“I think they did a good job identifying people,” Young said, “but they take forever getting [it to you].” The entire listing of names is available through the comptroller’s office and can be requested by telephone at 1-800- 782-7383 or by mail addressed to the Unclaimed Property Unit at 301 W. Preston St., Room 310, Baltimore, Md. 21201-2385. -30-