As those holiday season bills start coming in, most British Columbians could use a little extra cash in their pocket these days.
For some people, those elusive funds could be closer than they think. In B.C., there’s approximately $160 million in unclaimed funds sitting in long-forgotten accounts waiting to be collected.
These forgotten assets are administered by a non-profit called the BC Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS), which oversees long-lost money in dormant accounts and works to reunite these funds with the rightful owners as a public service.
“The BC Unclaimed Property Society serves as kind of a lost and found for forgotten funds in the province,” says Alena Levitz, Executive Director of BCUPS.
In 2018, BCUPS returned approximately $1.7 million in unclaimed funds to the rightful owners. Since it was set up by the provincial government and Vancouver Foundation in 2003, the Society has put approximately $14.5 million in forgotten funds back in the hands of British Columbians.
These funds are from dormant credit union accounts, unclaimed wages, insurance payments, court payments, intestate estates (death without a will), overpayments to debt collectors, and outstanding real estate deposits.
“Funds become dormant for a host of reasons,” points out Levitz. “If you've moved around a lot, chances are you've become separated from some money that belongs to you. You could have left some funds in a credit union account you forgot to close. Another common scenario is when an employee leaves a place of employment, moves away and the employer can’t locate them to give them their final pay.”
If you think you have forgotten funds, you can search BCUPS’ free online database to see if there’s missing money waiting for you. Individuals can retrieve forgotten funds by completing a simple verification process that firmly establishes their identity as rightful owner. There are no fees or costs to search for or claim dormant assets through BCUPS.
In today’s era of online scams and online phishing, Levitz says people have every right to be cautious. “BCUPS never asks for expenses, taxes, fees or some other disbursements to claim forgotten funds, ” she says. She encourages consumers to be wary of anyone alleging to hold unclaimed property who pressures them to act fast before it expires or asks for banking or credit card information. “We take extraordinary measures to protect people’s privacy when reuniting them with their unclaimed funds.” She also points out that there is no limitation period to claim forgotten funds from BCUPS.
While the average BCUPS claim is around $300 to $500, somewhere in B.C. is the heir to an unclaimed estate worth a whopping $1.9 million.
Now that would cover a lot of holiday bills.