Many Oregonians still have unclaimed money with state

Hey, want some free money?

Of course you do — and your chances of getting some are one in four. All you have to do is click "Unclaimed Property" on the Oregon State Treasurer's Web page and enter your name in the search boxes to see if you're a winner.

It's not a lottery. The money comes from inactive bank accounts, unpaid wages or commissions, life insurance policies or utility deposits, State Treasurer Ben Westlund says on his Web site.

One million names are listed. The population of Oregon is pushing 4 million, so your odds are pretty good.

The huge kitty, more than $360 million, is unclaimed because owners cannot be located.

Interest earnings are deposited in the Common School Fund, said James Sinks, a spokesman for the treasurer's office.

If you're one of the potential claimants, all you have to do is print a copy of the official inquiry form, get it notarized and mail it to the Unclaimed Property Section of the Division of State Lands.

If your claim is verified, you will receive a check in about 45 days.

The list describes the property type and whether the amount is more than or less than $50.

A raft of prominent Rogue Valley residents were surprised to learn their names are on the list, including Sen. Jason Atkinson, who's listed as having more than $50 in "premium refund check proceeds."

"I don't know how it got there, but I'm absolutely going to file for it," Atkinson said. "A branch fell on my car in this windstorm, so, when I get it, maybe I'll break even on the cost of fixing it."

Sen. Alan Bates of Ashland had entries for "miscellaneous outstanding checks" adding up to $700 and coming from old utility deposits and other sources, going back to medical school days in the 1970s, he said.

"It's not worth the trouble to track it down," said Bates. "Since it's making money for K-12 schools, I'll just leave it in the fund."

Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland, on learning that he had less than $50 unclaimed, joked, "I'm very surprised about this wonderful windfall and maybe it will allow me to retire."

He later learned the money was a dividend check from his children's college trust fund.

Buckley said the fund is a kind of metaphor for modern times, where "people's lives are just so scattered and all of us are trying to hold together so many pieces, not just our credit cards, but some investment account from 22 years ago."

Rabbi David Zaslow of Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland and his wife, Debra, both have balances under $50 in "cash exchange for securities." He promptly notified his congregation of the account and encouraged them to search it for themselves.

"I'm excited to find the money, but disappointed because I'm an Oregon taxpayer and I'm the only person in Oregon with this name. Why can't their computer find me and return it without my applying for it? They could send a postcard. I find it startling and kind of scary, as a security issue, that they can't find me.

"It seems to me that, in this day and age, this is an awkward procedure," Zaslow said. "They could transfer it electronically."

Longtime valley resident Sue Densmore, executive director of Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau, found two accounts, each under $50 and labeled "refunds due." Densmore didn't know where the money might have come from, but said, "I'm not sure I'll follow up on it. It has to be notarized and I'd have to take it to the bank."

Former Sen. Lyn Newbry of Talent, a fixture for decades in Oregon politics and the Rogue Valley fruit industry, is on the list for an under $50 dividend check. It was hard to find because it used his full name, Lyndel.

"I thought that kind of fund was for people they can't find," Newbry said. "I've been here almost 85 years."

Former Ashland city administrator Brian Almquist, a valley resident for 40 years, is on the list for "unidentified remittances" under $50.

When told of the amount, he said, "No kidding. I've no idea what it is. It will be an interesting project" to find out what the money's for.

Hundreds of businesses and organizations have unclaimed funds. Entering the word "Medford" in the search box brings up balances for Medford Ambulance, Medford Chamber of Commerce, Medford Clinic, Medford Community Health Center and 145 others.

Under "Ashland" there's a listing for Ashland Shop n Kart for more than $50 in vendor check proceeds. Store manager Eric Chaddock said the funds might be checks misdelivered in the mail and written off by companies who wrote the checks.

"I'll check into it," he said. "The owner will be happy to hear about this."

The Treasurer's office warned consumers about getting sucked into schemes that charge to find lost money, when much of the data is free.

The state's search page is at You can search for unclaimed assets in other states for free through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, at

In the 2009 fiscal year, the state received $52.8 million in unclaimed assets and returned $14.8 million to people who filed claims, the Web site said. Unclaimed assets remain in the fund in perpetuity or until claimed — and, said Sinks, are usually worth between $50 and $500.

"That's not small potatoes," he said. "The Treasurer is eager to connect as much of the funds as possible to the rightful owners. In most other states, it goes into the general fund."

Parties who end up with property belonging to others must make a "diligent search" for the owners, Sinks said, and if they can't find them, they don't get to keep the assets — they must be deposited in the fund, which is under the State Land Board, an agency overseen by the governor, secretary of state and state treasurer.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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