Mary Pitman works as a nurse, but her passion is uniting people with money they didn't know they had.
Author of The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick & Easy Guide to Finding Money That is Rightfully Yours, Pitman has talked about how to find free money on CNN, Suze Orman's show, and a host of other places. Wondering if there's free unclaimed money out there for you?
Here's how to find out.
How a Nurse Found Her Calling as a Sleuth
Pitman started her quest for unclaimed funds with a dose of scepticism. "One of the nurses I worked with told me about this. Like most people, I rolled my eyes," she says. But she typed her maiden name in on a website and found she had money. "Five weeks later I had a check in hand for $2,500. My attitude changed."
Now, she says she finds money for people in her free time. "I was working in the recovery room. There's nothing to do when you don't have any patients and you're waiting for people to come out of surgery." When she ran out of friends and family, she started looking up the doctors. "I found money for three-quarters of our surgeons."
Billions of Dollars Just Waiting
Pitman says there's $41.7 billion out there in missing money — forgotten pensions, savings accounts, and 401(k)s, unclaimed child support, proceeds from class action suits, money for creditors in bankruptcy court. You could find money for your business, your nonprofit, your local church.
There are companies that will search for you, for a fee. Pitman recommends doing it yourself. "It's free to search and free to claim. The money is held indefinitely by the states, except for Indiana which only holds it for 25 years, then keeps it."
Simple to File, Simple to Claim
She uses a website called Unclaimed as her first stop looking for unclaimed funds because all states participate. Another good source, Missing Money can also locate missing money, but does not include all states. It's simple; you type in your name and see if there's money coming to you. You will be referred to the particular state's site, where you either apply online or fill out and notorize a form you mail in, depending on how much money is involved.
"My goal is to teach people how to do this. You should check at least once a year; new listings are added all the time," Pitman says. She's so passionate about it, she has registered a National Find Your Missing Money Day on April 16. "The day after taxes are due, you need it bad," she says.
Doing the Suze Orman show, she found $66,000 for one woman, stock inherited from her father. "One of the more unusual cases is a listing I found with the bank name where the owner's name normally goes. The individual's name was in address slot. It was $1,147 — not a massive amount, but I thought, the woman will never find that. So I found her. She got back in touch with me, told me she was about to have a baby and the money would really come in handy," Pitman says. That's what makes it all worthwhile.
"I love nursing, but this is my true passion. It's like throwing a pebble in a pond. I know those ripples are reaching out."
Pitman's book has strategies for claiming other kinds of missing money, beyond the two sites listed above. If you search following her tips and find some lost money, let us know. You can report back in our comments section.