Unclaimed money is often released to the unclaimed property fund of a state or province. Such money may come from a variety of sources and is held as a public service. Funds may sit for years before persons claim them, often because the money's existence is unknown. Money finders are professionals who help people find and collect these funds. Money finders perform searches for clients and earn a fee for their services.
Learn about the various types of unclaimed monies and how local laws in your area govern professional money finders. Examples of unclaimed monies include inactive bank accounts, uncashed payroll checks and stock certificates.
Individual states often have laws to govern the conduct of money finders. Some states, have passed laws that make it illegal to charge finders' fees once unclaimed property is on a state's list. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators' website contains information about each state's unclaimed property laws.
Specialize in one or more areas of unclaimed monies. Examples of specialization include lost life insurance, state-held monies and federal agency funds.
When choosing a specialty, compare your interests with the fields available. Also consider whether data can be readily obtained on the people who have unclaimed funds in a particular area.
Obtain the proper licensing and credentials as required by your national or local laws. Some states, for example, may require a professional money finder to be bonded and/or a licensed private investigator. If the unclaimed monies area that you choose to pursue does not require additional licensing or education, you can begin your business immediately.
Establish your finder’s fee and create the necessary contracts. Some states have laws on allowable fees and contract provisions. Alaska's Unclaimed Property Act, for example, stipulates a contract must be in writing, not exceed six months, specify fees to be charged and state the nature and value of property and the value of the owner's share after the fee is deducted. In addition, property equal to or greater than $500 cannot be subject to a finder's fee greater than 10 percent.
Some professional money finders increase their fee rates if a transaction involves a great deal of research. For example, the fee may increase from 1 percent to nearly 5 percent depending upon the nature of the work. State laws must still be followed when increasing fees based upon the work involved.
Find records of unclaimed funds. In the United States, every state has an unclaimed property department and a searchable online database, according to the National Unclaimed Property Network. A free national database is available at Missing Money. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators' website also provides a listing of states that have searchable databases. Unclaimed monies from insurance policies and United States and Canadian government agencies can also be researched at the National Unclaimed Property Network.
Contact property owners by telephone, email or postal letter.
Write a script of what you want to say before calling property owners so you get a positive response. Maintain records of your contact attempts, contracts and invoices in individual file folders to remain organized.
Be wary of online business opportunities that require you to pay cash for names of persons with unclaimed money.