HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - It's shocking the number of people who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars - or even more than $1 million in some cases - and they don't even know it.
News 3 got an inside look at the vault where unclaimed property is kept by the Virginia Department of Treasury in Downtown Richmond.
We interviewed a man, who we are only identifying as "Jim" to protect his privacy, after he was awarded a significant sum of money from the Department of Treasury.
He said it started off with a phone call he received that left him skeptical.
“She told me she had a large sum of money that was owed to me. It was turned over to the state 20-some years ago because they couldn’t find me, but I didn’t believe the story initially,” said Jim.
He said it sounded like a scam.
“We all get a million scam emails, calls every single, solitary day,” said Jim. “But let's just say we won a miniature lottery.”
In fact, state officials told News 3 this year they’ve paid out $87 million in unclaimed property.
“We are here as custodians of the property for the legal rightful owners, so we are in possession of that, and we take that very seriously,” said Diana Shaban, the Public Information Officer for the VA Department of Treasury.
At the Department of Treasury headquarters in Richmond, it takes three employees to open to door to the vault where some of the property and cash are kept.
There’s also another room upstairs where all sorts of items like jewelry, coins, fancy shoes - and of course, money - are kept.
“We get stocks. We get security deposits. We get dividend checks that were never cashed,” said Shaban.
They sent News 3 a list of some of the highest sums of unclaimed money in the region.
There are several people owed more than $1 million and dozens who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and don’t know it. The amounts are shocking.
“We wind up with a lot of unclaimed property assets. We have over $2 billion in our system,” said Shaban.
That's $2 billion dollars just waiting to be claimed by Virginia residents.
“I fell out of the chair. The State of Virginia check came in; it took a couple days to arrive. I said to my wife to take it to the bank and put it in ASAP,” said Jim.
State officials sometimes make calls to people who are owed money. They publish the names a few times a year in newspapers, and the public can always look up their name online.
In the newspaper, it is just the names from the previous year, not the entire list of people owed.
Officials said the entire list of people with unclaimed property is gigantic.
“I used to check that for 10 years for fun, but I never saw my name,” said Jim.
Little did he know there was a large sum waiting for him.
Many other states have similar websites.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help get our citizens reunited with their unclaimed property, and our entire division takes it very seriously. We love being able to do it,” said Shaban.
Jim said he is using the extra money to help his grandkids. He encourages everyone to check to see if they are owed money.