By Ritchie E. Starnes, News Editor
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 —
One in eight North Carolinians have unclaimed property at the State Treasurer’s Office.
More than 2,300 of those with unclaimed property, mostly in the form of cash, have ties to Stanly County. Unclaimed money connected to the county totals more than $749,000.
As of last year, the state’s unclaimed cash fund ballooned to $384 million, with $40 million having been dispersed to the rightful owner, according to N.C. Department of State Treasurer spokeswoman Schorr Johnson.
“Unclaimed property consists of bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, insurance policy proceeds, stocks, bonds, and contents of safe deposit boxes that typically have been abandoned for one to five years,” Johnson said via email.
“Funds become unclaimed because the company loses track of the consumer, due to an incorrect address or other missing information.”
So far this fiscal year, more than 8,900 claims have been filed, with roughly $16.5 million dispersed, records show.
Unclaimed funds do not expire, Johnson said. They remain a part of the fund until claimed.
Many of the property owners with local ties have either moved away or their current address does not match the records of the party that owes the proceeds. Some businesses and nonprofit organizations are no longer in business.
Before the money becomes part of the Unclaimed Property Fund, state law requires that holders of the funds exercise due diligence in attempting to locate the owner, Johnson said.
“Once the money is turned over, we engage in statewide outreach about the fund — including targeted outreach to municipalities,” Johnson said.
“The responsibility is on the owners of the funds to come forward and make the claim. The vast majority of funds have become unclaimed because of a bad address or inability to locate the owner.”
Property values owed vary from the nominal to significant amounts.
Among the list for Stanly County, the highest amount owed is nearly $50,000 to Lois M. Barnes with a reported address of 1503 Stoker Terrace in Albemarle.
Other than the surprising names of those with stored money, the amounts due are equally staggering.
Clarks Grove Primitive Baptist Church has $4,083.28 just sitting in the state’s coffers.
Even the county’s tax collector, which technically belongs to all of its taxpayers, is owed more than $2,600. The recorded address for the tax collector is its former location at 201 S. Second St., before it moved to its present location at Stanly Commons.
Pam Blake, county tax collector, said the office routinely checks for money due, but had not done so this year. She said the former address is the likely cause for the money not coming directly to the county.
“We’ll definitely check that out,” Blake said.
“We need all the money we can get.”
There’s a second amount listed for the county for $96.30, but with Stanly misspelled as S-t-a-n-l-e-y.
News that Russ Hollins Realtors has two checks totaling $2,500 at NC Cash surprised the company’s owner.
“I didn’t know that,” Russ Hollins said.
“Unless they publish the website there’s really know way of knowing.”
Roughly $5,000 awaits Stanly Regional Medical Center, including funds originally earmarked under its former name, Stanly Memorial Hospital. It, too, has funds listed with the county misspelled.
East Elementary School is due $232.03 while the athletics department at Pfeiffer University has $75 waiting to be claimed.
Even The Stanly News & Press is owed $365.03. In addition to a misspelling, the city name Albemarle preceded the newspaper’s title.
While the unclaimed money waits to be claimed at the state level, the collective funds have use. The proceeds are used to fund academic scholarships.
Interest and principal from the fund is used by the State Education Assistance Authority for student loans and grants.
At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, $2.4 million from interest earned and $27.5 million from the principal was sent to SEAA to be used for needy and worthy students.
A base amount always remains in the fund, with transfer amounts set by the legislature, which comprises the principal used for scholarships.
A total of 90,836 students were assisted through SEAA with scholarships from the Escheats (Unclaimed Property) Fund during the 2012-2013 academic year, Johnson said.
Periodically the Treasurer’s Office has regional events, often piggybacking on other functions, as a way to promote and return unclaimed property.
Visit www.nccash.com to search and file a claim for unclaimed property. Be prepared to show proof of ownership, including documentation with a Social Security number and a valid address.
For claim-related questions, call (919) 508-1000.
For a look at the current owners of unclaimed property with ties to Stanly County, see a list beginning on 2D.