For many people, the come-on from the attendants at the N.C. Cash booth at the State Fair is hard to resist: “Do you want to see if you have lost money?”
Some who hesitate find the Department of the State Treasurer sign reassuring and march up confidently to enter their names into a computer database.
After trying their own names, several families desperately provide names of half a dozen relatives. Many walk away disappointed.
“No money for us today,” one woman said. “Oh well.”
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The N.C. Cash booth, in the Kerr Scott Building, is part of the effort by the state treasurer’s department to return lost and unclaimed cash – for free. Under state law, financial institutions, insurance companies and public agencies, including the state Department of Revenue, must turn over to the State Treasurer any money that remains unclaimed after efforts to return it have been exhausted.
While many seem sheepish about their expectations approaching the booth, a surprising number find unclaimed cash, ranging from $5 to several thousand. As of Wednesday, the booth had looked up 5,859 names and helped return $219,067, including a single claim for more than $86,000, state officials say.
Charles and Laurie Newlin from Alamance County scrolled through the names of relatives and found $220 owed to the estate of a late aunt. They’ll pass the information along to Charles Newlin’s cousin.
“We come every year,” Laurie Newlin said. “We usually look for ourselves.”
The unclaimed money comes from bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, insurance policy proceeds, stocks and bonds, among other sources, that have become orphaned when their rightful owners moved or died or simply lost touch.
Millions reclaimed each year
Interest from the unclaimed cash goes to the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority, which offers scholarships to North Carolina students at state schools.
Last year, $438 million sat in the fund at the end of the fiscal year. Residents reclaimed nearly $60 million – $10 million more than the previous year – and $90 million went to student scholarships.
Through the first quarter of this fiscal year, more than $17.5 million has been returned to residents through 6,748 claims.
N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who started the fair booth in 2009, presented the National American Red Cross with a check for unclaimed funds of $9,738 on Wednesday.
“North Carolina’s State Fair is an experience I look forward to each year,” Cowell said.
Cowell said the booth has a broader mission of helping people make wise financial decisions. It includes information on retirement planning and health planning.
The treasurer’s department takes the booth to other special events to draw attention to the unclaimed cash fund, but anyone with a computer can search online at www.nccash.com.