8 On Your Side Helps Tampa woman claim money

The state owes Bay Area residents, or former residents, more than $259 million.

The money is just sitting in the Unclaimed Property fund waiting for people to claim it. Everything from old paychecks you never picked up, to security deposits you forgot, and even old stocks, are all considered unclaimed property.

Finding the money on the Florida Chief Financial Officer’s website is easy. Getting it can be a different story.

Related: What you need to know: How long it will take, necessary forms of ID

Suellen Smith, an 8 on Your Side Volunteer, knew she had money in the fund, but felt overwhelmed by the claims process.

“I’ve approached two attorneys and two financial counselor and they just shrug their shoulders at me,” Smith said. “It’s very frustrating. There’s just no help for an ordinary person.”

Smith had two unclaimed accounts. One of those, stocks she never cashed in on, with not only her name, but her ex-husband’s. A representative with Jeff Atwater’s office, the CFO, tells us this is a common problem with unclaimed property. 8 On Your Side learned Smith had two options: either only claim half of the money, and leave the other half in case her ex claims it, or prove that he signed it over to her. Smith dug out her divorce decree, and found the stock from AT&T was rightfully hers.

Overall from two accounts, Smith should be getting $115.

“This is a celebration,” Smith said. “I’m a senior citizen so I live on my social security. This means a lot. I’m the type of person who stoops over and picks up a penny in the parking lot because I like to save my money for travel.”

In the end, Smith had to attach a copy of her driver’s license, social security card, and divorce decree, to prove she was the rightful owner of the account.

Not everyone has so much trouble though. 8 On Your Side told Blake Guthrie about his $700.

“It takes two seconds to log on and see your name and all you have to do is a couple clicks away from finding out how much money it is,” Guthrie told 8 On Your Side. “I was thinking it was a few dollars and so I’m thankful you reached out to me.”

Don’t expect the money right away though, it could take a few months. 8 On Your Side learned it is legal for third parties to contact you and help you claim the money, after all the information is public record, but beware! They’ll expect a cut.

Begin your search for unclaimed money HERE

BY THE NUMBERS

Below is a county-level breakdown of how much money is owed to either current or past residents:

Hillsborough County – $96 million

Pinellas County – $81 million

Polk County – $31 million.

Pasco County – $29 million

Manatee County – $22 million

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