OTR Interviews

Lost and Found

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 17, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Personal Story segment tonight, we're going to take you on a treasure hunt, OK? You've got to get a pencil, and you're going to want this information.

Twenty-three billion dollars is a lot of money. It would take the Bush administration about a week to spend it. Just kidding. But that's how much money, $23 billion, is unaccounted for right now in the USA, and millions of everyday Americans may be entitled to some of it.

Last year, Americans found 876 million bucks. Incredible. So how can you find out if you're entitled to some cash?

Joining us now from Las Vegas is Brian Krolicki, the Nevada State treasurer. And here in the studio, Marion Asnes, the senior editor of Money magazine. I love this story because it's like a treasure hunt.


MARION ASNES, MONEY MAGAZINE: Yes, it's like a gigantic lost-and- found.

O'REILLY: All right. Let's walk through it step by step.

ASNES: Right.

O'REILLY: You've got a staggering amount of money sitting in banks, financial institutions like Merrill Lynch, places like that, basically unclaimed, somebody dies, nobody knows about it, this and that. What do you do if you're an everyday American? How do you start?

ASNES: You start by getting on the Internet, and you can go to a Web site. That is www.unclaimed.org .

O'REILLY: All right. Let me stop you. Let's put that up. www.unclaimed.org . OK. There it is on the screen.

ASNES: Right.

O'REILLY: Then what?

ASNES: When you go there, you go to "owner" so that you can find your money. There are two sites. One is for professionals who have unclaimed money. The other one is for owners.

O'REILLY: "Owner?"

ASNES: Right.

O'REILLY: All right. So there's a little icon that you can just hit that says "owner."

ASNES: There's a big button.


ASNES: Not hard to find at all.


ASNES: Then that will take you to another page where you put in "Find the Money." Click on "Find the Money." And then it will ask you what state you live in.

O'REILLY: Let me stop you. Does it say click in "Find the Money," or do you have to know that information?

ASNES: No, you click on "Find the Money."

O'REILLY: OK. So it says "Find the Money." So even I can do this because I am a total computer idiot.

ASNES: Even I can do this.

O'REILLY: All right. So "Find the Money." You click on that. And then what happens?

ASNES: Then it will ask you what state you want.

O'REILLY: What state you live in?

ASNES: No, it's several things. It's what state you live in now and it's any state that you used to live. You may have to go through this a few times because...

O'REILLY: OK. That you used to live in.

ASNES: Right.

O'REILLY: Or that your dad or mom used to live in who passed away or...

ASNES: Absolutely.


ASNES: So then you click on those states, and you will be referred to their state treasurer's Web site because, you see, it the state treasurer of any given state that is responsible for taking care of this money.

O'REILLY: That is why we have Mr. Krolicki here...

ASNES: Yes, it is.

O'REILLY: ... from Nevada where there's money all over the place. All right. So they're into the Web site. And then they're coming in to you, Mr. Krolicki, the people who, you know, have once lived in Nevada or have their relatives that may live there. And then what happens?

BRIAN KROLICKI, NEVADA STATE TREASURER: It's all automatic. They come into the Web site, and we make it very easy. They just insert their name, and they hit enter, and it comes back with a match or not. It's that easy.

O'REILLY: Do you have to put a Social Security number in there because a lot of people have the same name?

KROLICKI: All state sites are somewhat different, but, for the most part, no. What you do is put in your name, and sometimes if it's close to the name that they have, they may ask something, you know, slightly off of that. But it walks you through it.

And then if it looks like -- you know, sometimes you have the right name, but it's not necessarily you. There are claim forms that you would produce and send to the state treasurer's office so that...

O'REILLY: OK. But you're getting ahead of yourself.

KROLICKI: ... you can...

O'REILLY: So you put in your name. And then what happens? Does your bank account pop up, or does it say Nevada owes you a certain amount of money? What happens after you put in your name?

KROLICKI: It usually -- the states don't give the specific amounts because we don't want these situations to be abused, but it would come up with yes, your name, there's an asset, you know, a share of stock or something like that, and it would say over $100, something like that.

O'REILLY: OK. How about your mom's maiden name? You know, can you do this with everything like that?

KROLICKI: You can put any name in there, and Nevada's a place where very few people started from. People move here. So this is what we're trying to do, is make every state available. In fact, the state treasurers have worked to essentially make a one-stop-shop approach for...

O'REILLY: OK. So once they get into your Web site, the Nevada State treasurer's Web site, then you will alert the person that they may have some money, but then they're going to have to come in and prove who they are before you give them the check and stuff, right?

KROLICKI: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: OK. Now let's go back to you, Ms. Asnes. I worked in -- let's see. I worked in Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Florida, and I had to get out of town sometimes pretty fast. So I may have some account money there, you know?

ASNES: Right.

O'REILLY: It's worth my while to go back and check out everywhere I have been, correct?

ASNES: Absolutely because the laws have different amount of times that the states have to hold the money.

A lot of money they only have to hold for three to five years. But there are some things like gift certificates that the state might be required to hold on to for as much as 15 years.

So you could kind of, you know, dip around and find money anywhere, anywhere you've worked, anywhere -- I mean where you went to college, if you're young...

O'REILLY: Right.

ASNES: ... and you can find all kinds of things. It's not just bank accounts.

O'REILLY: Well, apparently, people are doing this because, you know, they recovered $837 million last year. That's an enormous amount of money.

ASNES: It is, especially when you realize that so much of it is in tiny dribs and drabs. A lot of these accounts are under $100. I ran a few searches. In fact, I ran your name.

O'REILLY: Yes? Am I getting any money or...

ASNES: Sorry.

O'REILLY: No. No, I didn't make any money anyway. I was making $150 a week in Pennsylvania. When you -- Mr. Krolicki, how much of a burden is this on your office? Are you besieged by people looking for money, particularly in Vegas when -- you know, money's everything in your town.

KROLICKI: We suspect after shows like this there will be a big volume of hits.

O'REILLY: Oh, you -- there will. Absolutely.

KROLICKI: But most of it's automated and we handle it. There are different kind of things that treasurers do to make an outreach, printing in newspapers, going into county fairs. We're always talking about these things. But, as you heard, there's $23 billion of people's lost money, and it's great job to find these people and...

O'REILLY: Yes. Now what's the most...

KROLICKI: ... reunite them with their money.

O'REILLY: We have the Web site there back where you start right there for everybody to copy down. What's the most you've ever given out, Mr. Krolicki, from your office?

KROLICKI: Several million dollars to a seasoned citizen who -- finally, I think the heirs, for estate purposes, made Dad go to the unclaimed property division.

O'REILLY: Whoa! Hey! Several million dollars to an elderly people who just got motivated to check it out?

KROLICKI: Yes. He seemed to be getting by just fine without it.

One of the other things that I think is important to talk about, though, is what the federal government's holding in unclaimed property, if you would care to entertain that. There are...

O'REILLY: Just real fast. How do you get that information? We've got 15 seconds left. How do you get that?

KROLICKI: You could link it through the Web sites that you've heard, the www.unclaimed.org and www.missingmoney.org.

O'REILLY: OK. So if you have IRS refunds and things like that you haven't claimed and all of that, that will be on the fed Web site?

KROLICKI: Yes. There's about $9 billion.

O'REILLY: All right. There you go, everybody!

KROLICKI: Thank you.

O'REILLY: Treasure hunt tonight! All right. Watch "The Factor." We've got two more segments. And then whip on that thing and get that money.

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