Unclaimed property may be waiting for you at the Tennessee Department of Treasury. Just last week, a Knoxville woman received a pleasant surprise and didn’t have to spend a penny to find her money. However, there are businesses that look for unclaimed money and charge you to collect it. They call it a finder’s fee, but you can check for free.

If you have moved from one community to another in Tennessee, you may have left behind some unclaimed property. It could have been a deposit from a water company or overpayment for a medical bill. Abandonment is determined after a specified amount of time has elapsed.

When a company or agency has been unable to return your asset or get in touch with you, the asset is then returned to the state where the information is available to the public.

Retrieval businesses can search the public website and send a letter to you about your unclaimed money.

Lorietta Allen received a pleasant surprise recent. Allen, a grandmother, nearly died nine years ago because of serious heart condition. Unknown to her, an insurance company tried to send her a refund several years ago after she had moved. 

Then, last month a letter came from an unclaimed funds retrieval service:  Payne Richards and Associates from California saying she had unclaimed money totaling $1,398.

“Especially with school starting. My grandkids need school stuff, so that would help a lot,” Allen said.

The papers from Payne Richards and Associates required personal information and a fee.

“If I send in my driver’s license and Social Security card, copies of them, then they’ll refund my money – minus 10 percent,” said Allen.

Allen was skeptical about the company, but Payne Richards and Associates is a legitimate business. However, Allen was unaware there’s another way to retrieve money that had been sent to the Tennessee Treasury Department.  

The state has an Unclaimed Property Division where you can get this information for free. WATE 6 On Your Side called them in Nashville.

The claims agent asked for Allen’s full name, where she previously lived and her Social Security number. Within moments, they confirmed the state held money in her name. One was for $1,398 and another was for $3.54, both from insurance companies.

Allen was told the refunds had been sent to her old address but were returned to the state uncollected. 

“In fiscal year ’17, we returned over $48 million to Tennessean,” said Shelli King, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Treasury.

King said in Allen’s case, as in all situations, there are several steps taken to locate the rightful owner of unclaimed property.

“The first thing we do is send a letter to the last known address that came over with that property letting you know that you have unclaimed money or property with the department of treasury.  The second thing we do, if we got a Social Security number, we will match with the Department of Workforce, and we would send a letter to your employer,” said King.

There are several ways to discover if you have unclaimed money in Nashville. The easiest is to go to the Unclaimed Property Division’s website. Thousands of people were pleasantly surprised when they visited the site last year.

“Over 43,000 people were able to claim and have their money returned in one year,” said King.

Allen was pleased to learn about the little windfall coming her way.

“Wow. It’s good to have free money,” she said.

It’s important to note that the Tennessee Treasury Department does not possess land, homes or vehicles that may have been left behind at a place you once lived.

There are legitimate businesses that will send you a letter making you aware of unclaimed money and will charge you a fee. However, the information is free. All you have to do is look it up.