TERRE HAUTE —
Terre Haute city government coffers gained a $1,600 windfall Tuesday, thanks to the efforts of the Indiana attorney general and his office’s unclaimed property division.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller stopped by City Hall to present Mayor Duke Bennett with the city’s unclaimed property check of $1,632.84, which will be deposited in the city general fund.
“It’s helpful. Every little bit counts,” Bennett said. “We’re under a lot of stress here on the budget. … Any opportunity to get some funding we didn’t expect is a good thing.”
He and Zoeller encouraged citizens to check the state website at Indiana
Unclaimed.gov or the July 4 and July 14 Tribune-Star listing of unclaimed properties for the Terre Haute area.
The state has more than $350 million in total unclaimed property, with $11 million in nine west-central Indiana counties and $5 million in Vigo County alone.
Last year, more than $1 million was returned to individuals with last known addresses in the Terre Haute area, Zoeller said.
“It is part of my role to inform Hoosiers how to find and claim it,” Zoeller said.
Bennett said the city has checked the site several times, but unclaimed properties can be listed in different ways and under different names.
“The attorney general’s office was very helpful to us in sorting that out and making sure we really got the money back that the citizens of our community were owed,” the mayor said.
The source was unclaimed insurance money.
Bennett encouraged people to check the site regularly and to “be creative” in checking out names that property might be listed under.
Also on hand was Buck the Money Dog, the new mascot for the unclaimed property office. Buck is a real-live rescue dog that belongs to Bill Fulton, director of the unclaimed property division.
The Indiana Unclaimed Property database is also now mobile. Anyone can search for free through the mobile application — just use the keyword Indiana Unclaimed to download. Business owners and charitable organizations are advised to check annually for unclaimed property.
Buck the Money Dog is part of the app, Zoeller said. Buck also can be followed on Facebook (Indiana Unclaimed Property) and Twitter.
“He’s all over the place. He’s gone viral” in search of rightful owners of unclaimed property, Zoeller said.
The office used to use an origami paper dog. This year, they’ve turned to a live version. “He’s a fun companion on the road,” Zoeller said. “He behaves better than sometimes my kids in the car.”
Earlier in the day, Zoeller presented another unclaimed property check to the Tippecanoe School Corp. for about $3,400. That money was from uncashed checks sent out by the district over the last few years.
Every year, the attorney general is required to advertise the list of unclaimed property turned over to the state during the previous year. The announcements run twice in a two-week period in the newspaper closest to the last known address of the property owner.
In a lot of states, unclaimed property is the treasurer’s responsibility, Zoeller said. In Indiana, that responsibility rests with the attorney general.
“My interest is not protecting the money for our treasury; it’s to find the rightful owner,” Zoeller said. “Each year we try to do more and more.”
Unclaimed property includes investment earnings, insurance proceeds and benefits, wages, and money from savings and checking accounts.
Less than 1 percent of unclaimed assets are tangible, physical items, such as those found in safe-deposit boxes. Unclaimed property does not include abandoned vehicles or real estate.
In 2012, more than 10,000 new properties valued at more than $1.3 million were reported and originated from the central Indiana Terre Haute region. This money belongs to residents or former residents of the area, or their heirs. The state holds these assets for 25 years after they are reported.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.