CHARLESTON – Using a subscription database, State Treasurer John Perdue’s office is sending letters to rightful owners of unclaimed property, notifying them of their forgotten assets.
Unclaimed Property Deputy Treasurer Carolyn Atkinson said her division has been using a subscription database supplied by the Westlaw research firm. In the last two months, letters sent to updated addresses have yielded $500,000 in claims filed by previously hard-to-locate owners.
Treasurer Perdue said the office goal is always to return more funds, using whatever new methods arise. The office has returned $47 million in lost funds in the last five fiscal years. “It’s the people’s money and we want to return it to them,” he said.
Atkinson echoed his remarks. “It’s a proactive approach,” Atkinson said. “We’re trying new and additional outreach. We’re always thinking of how to improve our processes. We hope to expand the effort in the near future.”
Unclaimed property is any asset from which an individual has become unintentionally separated, such as a forgotten utility deposit, a left-behind paycheck or the abandoned contents of a safe deposit box.
The office already publishes about 25,000 names of rightful owners, spread over two statewide newspaper inserts a year, and maintains a comprehensive online database at www.wvtreasury.com. The inserts feature never-published names.
Atkinson stressed that those who receive the letters may be assured they aren’t scam targets.
“If people get a letter it’s on official letterhead,” she said. “An official envelope, a return address. This is not a theft identity scam. A letter will have a claim form with it and stipulate that any mail should be directed back to the State Treasurer’s Office. We never ask for bank account information.”