| December-January 2011
RETURN TO HOME PAGE
By Corrie M. Anders
It’s not as if he were desperate for the money, but Robert Krinsky was delighted—not to mention flabbergasted—to learn that he had a $236 windfall.
“Son of a gun. There is a Santa Claus,” said Krinsky, who had long forgotten about the money in an old checking account. “I am really surprised.”
There are thousands of people with addresses in Noe Valley and other nearby neighborhoods who could be experiencing good fortune similar to Krinsky’s. However, they may be unaware of the financial assets that the California State Controller’s Office is holding for them—and wants to return.
The state maintains an online inventory of unclaimed property—worth $6.1 billion as of last month—that includes everything from money left in bank accounts and safe deposit boxes to uncashed payroll checks, royalties, stocks, and inheritances.
The Voice asked the controller’s office to scan its database of 17.6 million people and organizations to see how many had unclaimed property in the 94114 and 94131 ZIP codes. The results showed that approximately 11,000 people and groups in the area were in line to retrieve $1.3 million in cash and 24,000 shares of securities, plus other assorted items.
Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the state office, strongly urged all local residents to search the list, which is updated weekly. There is no fee to reclaim your property, and the state must keep it for you in perpetuity.
“It’s awfully nice to come across a little extra cash that you can put into the holidays,” said Roper. “And you get to tell the story behind” discovering the bonus.
Some of the assets stored in the state vault are substantial. A 22nd Street resident has $20,000 waiting from an old American Express account, a Jersey Street man left $15,461 at his Western Federal Credit Union, and a woman on 26th Street failed to recover $4,789 from Intel Corporation.
Most of the accounts, however, contain $1,000 or less, including the money belonging to Krinsky, 51, a health care consultant.
“I more lost track of it than forgot about it,” said Krinsky, who moved six years ago to the Forest Hill neighborhood from his Cesar Chavez Street home. An apparently complicating factor was that federal regulators in 2008 shut down his financially insolvent bank, Washington Mutual, and placed customers’ deposits with JPMorgan Chase.
Krinsky said he was going to donate his “truly found money” to an academic cause.
Stan Baer, an information technology specialist, said the $1,211 in his E-Trade brokerage account got lost in the shuffle when he relocated to Cambridge, Mass., a few years ago.
“I probably knew in the back of my head” about the account, Baer said, adding that E-Trade had sent him correspondence from time to time. “I didn’t pay attention to it.”
Baer said he planned to recover the money and give it to his son in San Francisco, who recently lost his iPhone.
For different reasons, the state is holding inheritances that James MacPherson, a Grand View Avenue resident, and Pauline Scholten of Glen Park are trying to recover for heirs.
Scholten’s uncle, Harvey Scholten, was receiving royalty checks from Simon and Schuster when he died seven years ago. The royalties were rerouted to Pauline Scholten’s Arlington Street home, but one check for $199.62 wound up as undeliverable and was returned to the book publishing company.
“It’s kind of when people die, things fall through the cracks,” said Scholten, who was unaware of the royalty payment gone astray. The money will be distributed to Harvey’s heirs, she said.
“My uncle never had any children. Between all the nieces and nephews, we’ll get a good 25 bucks,” she laughed. “But that’s good, too.”
MacPherson said he was well aware that some assets from an estate had languished in the controller’s office—including several thousand dollars worth of dividends and stock in at least three companies.
“The estate is many years old and it’s all messed up,” said MacPherson.
“I just hope one of these days it will be squared away. I could use it. I’m not ready to go camping at Justin Herman Plaza,” he said in amusement. “The only people making money are the attorneys.”
When Arley Lewis sold his Alvarado Street home in 2003 during divorce proceedings, the Fire Insurance Exchange mailed out a refund check for a portion of his fire insurance premium. But he never got the $726.58 reimbursement.
“There is a lot of paperwork during a divorce and sale,” said Lewis, 42, a technical writer at a software company in San Carlos, where he now lives. “I think that I probably never found out that a refund was due to me at all.”
He said it was “a wonderful surprise to find out the money is there.” Lewis, who has remarried and has a young daughter, said he would use the money to buy holiday presents for his child and help pay for her day care.
Roper, of the state controller’s office, noted that businesses must “make a diligent effort to contact” the owner of any account that has been inactive for over three years. If the search is unsuccessful, the company alerts the state, which then makes its own effort to notify the owner.
“If another six months pass, [the property] transfers to the state” for safekeeping, Roper said.
The state does not pay owners any interest—nor does it earn any income—on the unclaimed property.
Still, some people are skeptical that the state would hold on to their belongings.
“To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t be more surprised this isn’t a scam,” Krinsky said as he looked up the controller’s website while talking to a Voice reporter. Finally convinced, he said, “I have no idea how money in this banking account got its way to the State of California for me to claim.” But he’s glad it did.
To see if you have uncollected property being held by the state, go to the searchable database at http://www.sco.ca.gov/upd.html.