By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A treasure worth in excess of $500 million is waiting to be found. More than 825,000 Oklahomans have unclaimed property that State Treasurer Ken Miller would like to return. Retrieving that money may simply be a few mouse clicks away.
“We’re holding more than $500 million for 1-in-4 Oklahomans, and we’d like to get it back to the rightful owners,” Miller said.
Businesses bring unclaimed cash, rebates, paychecks, royalties, stocks and bonds to Miller’s office. Oklahomans can find out if they have unclaimed property at yourmoney.ok.gov — the treasurer’s official unclaimed property website.
In some cases, the money might be a tax rebate that can be claimed by calling 521-4273 during normal office hours.
The treasurer’s website lists whether the money is less than or more than $100 and will identify tax rebates. The site also has a “Help” screen with tips for searching and other information on how to make a claim. The FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions — portion of the site, gives more information.
Tim Allen, deputy treasurer for communications, said the unclaimed property program is a department favorite.
“We give people money,” Allen said.
Businesses turn over money and property to the state treasurer — according to legal requirements based on what type of property it is — after three to eight years. Safe deposit boxes, for example, are turned over by banks after five years.
“It’s basically a consumer protection program because instead of businesses keeping the money, they turn it over to the state,” Allen said. “We publicize the names and try to get people their money. It’s a free service; we don’t charge people anything.”
The money never reverts to the state.
“The people with unclaimed property and their heirs can always claim that money, no matter how long it has been, and they’re entitled to every penny of it,” Allen said.
However, physical property taking up space in the state’s vaults is auctioned off and converted to cash when the vault gets full. Wednesday’s auction of 750 abandoned safe deposit boxes raised $285,000, Miller reported Thursday. The safe deposit box contents had accumulated in the treasurer’s vault since the last auction in 2008.
Allen said while employees of the Treasurer’s Office were not allowed to bid on items, the auction was fun to watch.
A box containing gold bullion sold for $8,700, while a Mickey Mantle-autographed baseball went for $400. Six silver bars weighing more than 37 pounds sold for $11,000, and a collection of 67 class rings fetched $19,000.
The auction at Dakil Auctioneers in Oklahoma City lasted almost eight hours, with about 400 people registered to bid, Miller reported.
“We had a very successful auction,” Miller said. “Our focus now returns to reuniting Oklahomans with their lost money.”
This was the fourth auction of unclaimed property since the treasurer’s office assumed administration of the program from the tax commission in 2000. The safe deposit box contents had accumulated in the treasurer’s vault since the last auction in 2008, Miller said.
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