Every day, lawyers settle class action lawsuits on behalf of consumers. With so many settlements out there, chances are you have purchased products that weren’t all they promised to be, somebody sued, and you could be due some money back. Normally, the courts require companies to send eligible consumers letters. But often they don’t know who their customers are or you toss the letter because it looks like junk mail. Luckily there’s now a website that tracks class action lawsuits and even allows you to apply for them online. The site is: TopClassActions.com and it’s free to consumers. Looking at the site right now, there are tons of interesting cases.
•For example, you could be eligible for a few dollars if you ever bought Honest Company Dish Soap, which claimed to be free of sodium laurel sulfate. The plaintiffs say it was NOT free of that chemical and the case is ongoing.
i•Here’s another one: Electrolux Home Products Inc. has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit alleging some of its dryers were defective and when lint built up they would catch fire. ELectrolux has already agreed to pay consumers up to $1,300 if they actually experienced a fire and $350 toward a new dryer if you have not had a fire.
•One more: Homeowners who purchased AZEK decking boards made of PVC could get up to $2,000. AZEK advertised that the decking required little maintenance and only periodic cleaning. Consumers say the boards were actually so weak that they weren’t even suitable for outdoor use.
TopClassActions even has a newsletter that lets you know about new lawsuits and settlements each week, so if you don’t see something you’re eligible for right away, you may down the line. Check it out and claim your money! Every year, millions of dollars worth of class action money go unclaimed.
I’m turning things around and showing you how to bag a bargain because somebody else’s property has become unclaimed property.
Not all unclaimed money is just dollars left in bank accounts. Sometimes it consists of valuables left in safe deposit boxes. In fact, most state governments don’t use the term “unclaimed money.” They call these lost assets “unclaimed property.” And when they run out of room to store these physical items, they auction them off and hold the proceeds for the rightful owners. We’re talking jewelry, antiques, silver, baseball cards, rare coins and more.
This presents another opportunity for YOU. You may be able to buy unclaimed valuables at auction for a fraction of their actual value. Just google “unclaimed property auction” and you will get a couple hundred thousand results. A few are physical auctions, so look for those near you. But most of these auctions are now conducted online, so you have access to them no matter where you live. A couple of examples, as I look right now: The Maryland State Comptroller is selling off jewelry, watches and paper currency. And recently the Illinois State Treasurer was selling souvenirs from the 1893 World’s Fair and gold coins from a Spanish shipwreck. Seriously!
One note of caution: crooks often try to pass their auctions off as government auctions and sell fake merchandise, so confirm that the auction is for real on the state’s own website.
I want to talk about a pocket of money that’s small and yet big. I’m referring to unclaimed money created when somebody loses a home.
It’s small, because, thankfully, this is a fairly rare occurrence statistically and yet big because real estate is a high-dollar game.
There are usually two ways that people lose their homes. The first, of course, is if you get behind on your mortgage and the bank forecloses on the home. You may think it’s a total loss, but here’s the key: if the bank was able to sell your house for more than you owed in back mortgage payments, that overage belongs to you. You should check public records of what the house sold for and get in touch with your former lender if it sold for more than you owed.
The second way to lose your house is if you couldn’t or didn’t pay the property taxes. In that case someone else may buy what’s called the “tax lien” and take over your house. It’s shocking but there is a possible silver lining. If the new owner paid more for the tax lien than you actually owed, then YOU are entitled to that money. Check with the department of taxation in whichever county or city the house is located.
Given all of the people who struggled in the economic meltdown of 2008 and beyond, there could be a lot of missing money from lost homes out there, so spread the word.
At last count, the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Public Debt was holding 44.7 million matured, unredeemed savings bonds worth $16.3 billion dollars that the rightful owners have failed to cash in. One or more of those bonds could belong to your family.
Some definitions: ”Matured” means they have finished earning interest.”Unredeemed” means the owners haven’t cashed them in. When you consider that savings bonds take 20 to 40 years to mature, it’s easy to see how people could forget about them.
I’m sorry to say that finding your family’s unclaimed savings bonds isn’t as easy as it used to be. Until a few months ago you could go to the government’s cleverly named “Treasury Hunt” website and do a search right online. When I launched Easy Money that site was listed as “temporarily down for repairs.” I kept inquiring and checking back and guess what: Now there’s a notice saying that “Treasury Hunt” is no longer available.
Could it be that the government no longer wants to make it easy for YOU to claim YOUR money? After all we have a huge deficit and debt and it wouldn’t hurt the feds to have an extra $16 billion dollars lying around. If this pisses you off, I suggest you complain to your members of congress and senators.
Meanwhile, it IS still possible to find and claim your family’s lost savings bonds. It just takes a more old fashioned effort. To inquire about unclaimed savings bonds, you submit “Fiscal Service Form 1048, Claim for Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed United States Savings Bonds.” I will link you to the form from EasyMoneyShow.com/22.
The form asks for information like bond number, face amount and issue date, but if you don’t have those, I suggest you submit it anyway. The form ALSO asks for the name of the bond owner and their social security number, which is the only information you used to have to provide online. So I’m hoping that the Treasury Department will still be able to find missing bonds using that information.
This may sound like a hassle, but it’s worth it. I helped a Pennsylvania family search for their unclaimed savings bonds. First the Jerry Williams found more than $500 dollars worth of savings bonds in her own name. Then she found more listed for her husband. And then, while I was at their house they found still more savings bonds for her daughter. In all, this one family found about a thousand dollars worth of savings bonds.
I hope that encourages you to try filling out the form. And you should check back every couple of years. The Treasury Department adds another half million bonds to its database EVERY month as they mature!
Let’s talk about how to search for unclaimed money for a small business —or a big business, for that matter. I emphasize small businesses only because there may very well be an owner/operator who will directly benefit from finding his or her own unclaimed money.
There are probably more entries in state unclaimed money databases for people than for businesses, simply because there are more people! But unclaimed money listings for businesses tend to be bigger! In other words: worth looking into! Here’s how you do it.
Number 2: Enter the full business name in the Business search box, if there is one, OR in the last name box.
Number 3: Now, reverse the name and plug it into the same box. So, to use an out-of-business example, you would type in Circuit City AND City, Circuit.
Number 4: Now try plugging different parts of the company name into the first name AND the last name box.
Number 5: Try running the two words CircuitCity together and also try searching under common misspellings of the business name.
This may sound tedious but it only takes a couple of minutes and it works! Here’s proof: a letter I received from the president of a small investment business, after giving a speech to his company about unclaimed money.
“Dear Elisabeth, you know your stuff! I’m pleased and amazed to report that I had my assistant search our company name on the unclaimed property websites you recommended. Sure enough, she found 6 different listings totaling nearly $30,000! Next time I’m in DC, I owe you and your husband a nice dinner out!”
So… search the name of your small business today. Or, if you’re an employee, search the name of your BIG business and turn over anything you find to the company. They may even give you a finder’s fee! Let me know what you find!
This one is really more about claiming yours. The government doesn’t always make it easy to get your unclaimed money back.
The positive spin on this is that the bureaucrats want to make sure they don’t give the money to the wrong person. The cynical view is that they’re reluctant to part with your money because they’re using it on various government programs.
So, whether it’s federal or state, county or city, you usually have to jump through some hoops to get your money back. Many people give up when the bean counters start asking for paperwork proving the unclaimed money is theirs. You may be asked for proof of an address where you live 40 years ago. Or they might ask you for the account number of the credit union where you banked way back when. Or to verify that you really did work at the company that turned over your unclaimed paycheck.
Who keeps records like that? The credit bureaus, that’s who! This is a terrific trick! If you have to produce ancient financial records in order to claim your missing money, order your free credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus and one of them is likely to have the information in its database! This has worked for several friends of mine.
To order your free credit reports, just go to AnnualCreditReport.com. That is the one and only site mandated by congress to give each of us one free credit report a year. I’ll say it again AnnualCreditReport.com —not some other site that advertises heavily. I’ll also provide a hyper link from my site, EasyMoneyShow.com, so you can be sure to go to the right spot.