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Letter promising unclaimed funds draws suspicion: Money Matters

September 26, 2018

Letter promising unclaimed funds draws suspicion: Money Matters

Q: We got a letter from a company that claimed it had unclaimed property in my husband’s name. The letter said it was from Vanguard Operating LLC. It asked us to fill out this form with information, including the last four digits of my husband’s Social Security number and return it by Oct.1, or else the funds would be turned over to the state of Ohio.

We have no idea what this is about. We are afraid this is some kind of scam.

K.M., Seven Hills

A: Based on the research I did, I don’t necessarily think this is a scam. But you were still right to not fill out the form and return it.

You should never provide personal information to anyone by phone, email, text or mail that you weren’t expecting to hear from. This includes entities that say they’re your bank, credit card, investment firm, hospital or the IRS.

You and I both looked on the state’s unclaimed funds site, and your husband’s name isn’t on it. Yet.

If this letter is legitimate, it would seem that funds will be transferred to Ohio in your husband’s name and then you can check it in October or November.

If there is money in his name, it won’t cost you anything to retrieve it.

Money held by a state’s unclaimed funds office may stem from a dormant bank account, a wayward inheritance, a forgotten utility deposit, a class action lawsuit settlement, stocks, etc.

There are indeed scam operations out there that misrepresent themselves as some kind of unclaimed account or funds from a long-lost relative. They prey on our greed. Sometimes, we allow greed to cloud our judgment and we wrongly provide personal information or even a credit card number to cover shipping for documents or to process a claim.

There are other outfits that “find” unclaimed funds for people and say that, for a fee, they can help you recover the money. The unclaimed funds websites are public; anyone can look up anyone’s name. You shouldn’t pay anyone a fee to recover money that is yours. They aren’t doing anything for you that you couldn’t do yourself. And you shouldn’t give your Social Security number or any other personal information to a third party anyway. 

To contact the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds:

77 South High St., 20th FloorColumbus, OH 43215-6108Phone 614.466.4433Fax 614.728.9769Web site: https://www.com.ohio.gov/unfd/

Email: UnfdClaims.UnfdClaims@com.ohio.gov

The national database search is www.missingmoney.com, although not all states participate. Ohio does.

For more information: Ohio Unclaimed Funds 2018 update

Q: When an answering machine or voicemail picks up a robocall, is that not proof that the caller has reached a functional line?

J.N., Strongsville

A: In general, yes. But robocallers don’t like phone lines where they don’t reach a live person. They can’t rip you off or pry information out of you if you’re not on the phone with them.

Q: I saw your column regarding robocalls and tried to set up Nomorobo for my landline. Unfortunately, it appears it’s designed for cellphones, not land lines. At least, my Google search didn’t give any results for a land line.

M.C., Bainbridge

A: No, nomorobo is actually designed for landlines at no charge, and also available for cellphones for $1.99 per month. But not all landline or cellular providers offer it. You can check here whether your landline provider offers it. Most do.

Also, be careful googling things and then typing in personal information like your phone number. Nomorobo’s website is easy: nomorobo.com

To reach Teresa Murray, email moneymatters@plaind.com or call or text 216-316-7064. She cannot respond to all queries or comments.Previous columns: cleveland.com/moneymattersOn Twitter: @TeresaMurray On Facebook: www/facebook.com/MurrayMoneyMatters

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