‘Come and get it,’ state says of $2.3B in unclaimed property

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Treasury has a massive vault. It’s thick steel doors have huge metal wheels to lock it up tight. Inside, there are several side rooms with bars.

But look closer and it resembles a pirate’s treasure chest.

There are diamonds, jewels, and jewelry.

There’s art.

There are ornate medals.

There are rare photos, like a collection from the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Hitler’s Olympics) and a close-up shot of American star Jesse Owens.

They are items that belong to you; a lot of you.

“We believe one-in-ten Pennsylvanians has property that they’re entitled to claim from the Pennsylvania Treasury,” said Doug Rohanna, Deputy Treasurer for External Affairs.

The Treasury’s sitting on $2.3 billion worth of booty from various sources:

– unclaimed life insurance policies

– lapsed bank accounts

– abandoned safety deposit boxes

– stolen items turned over by police departments

But touring the vault leads to one, main question: why are so many people leaving so many valuables behind?

Rohanna says it’s possible people are entitled to things they don’t know about and then they move, making it difficult for the state to return.

“A lot of property is from people who passed away before sharing where all of their financial accounts are held with their family and loved ones,” Rohanna, who reminds everyone not to squirrel away valuables without telling anyone, lest it end up in the Pennsylvania Treasury vault as unclaimed.

Rohanna estimates that 17,000 ABC27 viewers have $125 million in unclaimed property. Lancaster County is the highest at more than $29 million, followed by Dauphin County’s $28 million, York’s $26 million and Cumberland’s $19 million. He insists the state doesn’t want to keep it and it works hard to give it back.

“That’s part of our job is to collect it, but the more important part of the job is to return it to the rightful owners.”

Patreasury.gov is the main outreach for unclaimed property. The website is easy to use. Just plug in your name and see if you can stake a claim.

It’s free to search and free to collect. In a matter of three minutes, I found two family members who had small holdings listed as “under-$100.”

But businesses can also participate and are encouraged to do so. In fact, WHTM had a pretty tidy sum waiting for it and it was discovered with an easy click of the mouse.

But the Treasury can’t hold the booty forever. After attempting to find owners, about three years, it will ultimately sell tangible property in its own eBay store or through high-end auctioneers.

“Family heirlooms, we try to hold and preserve,” Rohanna said as he showed us a case full of Silver Star’s and Purple Hearts. “War medals are something we really would like to reunite with the family of the veterans who served and earned those medals. We want to give them back.”

Even if your stuff is auctioned off, you can still make a claim. The Treasury keeps a record of every purchase and if your item is long gone you can still get what the state sold it for.

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