Comptroller's ReportDear Readers:
Be it a long-dormant bank account or a forgotten utility deposit or a family heirloom in an abandoned safe deposit box, more than $905 million in lost cash and property is waiting to be claimed by its rightful owner.
You’re probably wondering, “Where do I sign up?”
In today’s mobile society, it’s all too easy to lose track of uncashed stock dividend checks, insurance proceeds, utility deposits, rent deposits and other assets. A law passed during the 1961 Legislature requires financial institutions, businesses and government entities to turn over to the state any property that has not been claimed for three to five years because they cannot find the owner. As your Texas Comptroller, it then becomes my responsibility to see that these items are returned to their rightful owners.
10 Principles for Texas
in the 21st Century
- Develop a better-educated workforce
- Direct more of every education dollar into the classroom
- Raise the bar on student performance
- Cut taxes in Texas
- Introduce competition into Texas government
- Improve government performance and accountability
- Reduce the size of government
- Bring common sense to regulations
- Use technology to cut costs and increase quality
- Return control to communities and individuals
Using every avenue possible, my agency works hard to return these items to the good people of Texas. We have at our disposal a searchable database with millions of names available over the Internet. Through this, more than half of our property claims come from Web inquiries. In addition, we publish lists of names in 33 newspapers across the state, hoping to reach lost owners. We also host a booth at the Texas State Fair each year to publicize the items and try to make contact with anyone looking to claim their abandoned property.
But these efforts don’t always work. After we have tried for an additional year to reunite items with owners, we auction property. If a property owner turns up after the auction to claim an item that has been sold, they receive the proceeds from the sales. In the meantime, money raised by the auction will be used to fund important state programs, such as educating our children and paying our teachers.
My office instigated the first online auction of unclaimed property in December 1999. And what a first auction it was—the first auction to offer simultaneous online bidding with real-time; the first annual auction with a total appraisal of more than $500,000; and the first auction to allow people from all over the globe to bid against real live people on the auction floor in San Antonio.
Of course that auction was much smaller in scale compared to what we have now. Starting with only 89 items, the auction opened and closed in one day. Now in our fourth auction, we are offering the largest number of unclaimed items ever sold online by any state—a record 300-500 items, with the proceeds going to teach our kids. September 24th marks the first day of this year’s auction through e-Bay, which will have staggered start and end dates with new items being listed each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks.
These auctions provide unparalleled opportunities for seasoned and novice collectors to add wonderful items to their collections. I am very excited about the success of our auctions and my agency will continue to lead the way in innovation and the use of emerging technology.
To find out if you have any unclaimed property, go to my Window on State Government Web site at www.window.state.tx.us and click on “Unclaimed Property” to search for your name. Also, look in your October 21 newspaper for our insert where you can search for your name and your unclaimed property.
Carole Keeton Rylander