1 in 4 Virginians has unclaimed property, could that be you?


ROANOKE (WSLS) – More than $2.5 billion worth of cash and valuables are up for grabs and some of it could be yours.

On Thursday, our affiliate in Roanoke, WSLS 10, teamed up with the Virginia Department of the Treasury to help people reclaim their property. During the time their phone banks were open, they helped people claim more than $50,000 in cash and items.

Deep inside the James Monroe Building in Richmond sits the vault. Behind the combination-locked door are millions of dollars worth of hidden treasures that have long been forgotten.

“It’s really like being a kid in a candy store,” said Alex Baker, the man who oversees all of the unclaimed property. “Game consoles new in box, tools, obviously you see cookware, vacuum cleaners, guitars, LEGO sets.”

Baker and his staff, including Bill Dadmun, carefully and thoroughly catalog each item that arrives. Along with the valuables, comes the bizarre.

“A lot of interesting property has come through. I guess the oddest thing that came through was the prosthetic leg,” said Dadmun, the records and receipts manager.

But regardless, they say what they find hidden in these boxes is always a surprise. They’ll tell you they have the best government job out there.

“When you start telling people, hey we are actually here to give you back money or possessions they are always happy. You aren’t collecting,” said Baker.

From ancient history, like valuable coins from the Byzantine Empire, to the latest technology, Baker has seen it all.

“You are seeing a part of people’s lives,” continued Baker.

Items like an antique trunk full of valuable family heirlooms, just waiting for its newest generation to claim it.

“You know these people are out there somewhere. The families are out there somewhere. At some point, hopefully you are going to be reconnecting these things with these families. You get to see that excitement, sometimes that surprise that this stuff was even out there,” said Baker.

One item that stands out to Baker is a solid gold bar worth about $20,000. Another item is a three carat diamond ring. Both of these items are just waiting for their owners to come and claim them.

State law requires the commonwealth to protect abandoned money and items until the owner is found.

“All of that property comes to the unclaimed property division. It’s our mission to help find the rightful owners and give the money away to rightful owners,” said Manju Ganeriwala, the state treasurer.

That could take days or even decades and the payouts can be big.

“We have had individuals claim more than $1 million,” said Ganeriwala.

But where does this all come from?

Many different places. Let’s say you overpay on your taxes, a credit card bill or you forget to cash a paycheck.

“Life insurance policies or beneficiaries who weren’t aware of life insurance benefits,” said Ganeriwala

After a year, that money is sent to the state until it’s claimed.

Even if the owner is still alive, after five years going untouched, Ganeriwala said banks turn dormant security boxes over to the state.

“The valuables in the safe deposit box are then auctioned off after a year. And the money is deposited in that owner’s name,” said Ganeriwala.

How likely is it that some of the cash is yours? “One in four Virginians has unclaimed property,” said Ganeriwala.

Right now, there are 11 million accounts in Virginia alone waiting to be claimed.

At no cost or risk to you, finding out if you have a hidden stash of cash could be your biggest payout of the year is only a click away.

You can go to the state’s website to see if you have unclaimed property.