By Marc Kovac
State officials are warning Ohioans to beware of online companies offering to find unclaimed funds in exchange for fees.
David Goodman, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, said a cease-and-desist order has been issued to one company, Unclaimed Money LLC, that charges about $40 for such services and provides phony claim forms to unsuspecting customers hoping for big cash windfalls.
That company, Goodman said, is unregistered with the state to provide such services and has been ordered to stop charging people for searches.
More than 30 other companies have registered with the state and are offering comparable fee-based services, despite the fact that anyone can search Ohio’s unclaimed funds website and obtain money owed them, free of charge.
“Look, it’s shameful for a company to lure ... unsuspecting Ohioans in and take their money from them, and as the director of the Ohio Department of Commerce... we simply won’t stand for it here in Ohio,” Goodman said, adding, “This is a scam against hard-working Ohioans, and no Ohioans should ever pay for a search for unclaimed funds or to receive an unclaimed fund form.”
Unclaimed funds include monies that were lost or abandoned through the years by individuals who forgot they had savings accounts, failed to receive rent, paychecks or utility security deposits or lost stock certificates or checks.
The funds are turned over to the state for safekeeping until their rightful owners can be identified.
For the current fiscal year, which ends this month, the Department of Commerce paid more than 55,000 claims totaling about $55.5 million. The state still holds more than $1 billion in unclaimed funds.
Ohioans can search the state’s unclaimed database online at www.unclaimedfundstreasurehunt.ohio.gov or through a multi-state website, www.missingmoney.com. There is no cost to use either, and the state does not charge fees for the service.
But some residents fall prey to companies that charge for such services, often by inadvertently clicking on links from Internet search sites. Pay-based services aren’t necessarily illegal, though companies offering them have to register with the state, and there are limits on what they can charge.