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Arkansas Treasure Hunt Links People With Lost Cash

A surprising number of people put valuable things in bank boxes, then up die or even forget about their stashes. After awhile, the contents go to the state, which tries to find the owners.

Newspapers list names, try to return unclaimed property

Today every newspaper in the state of Arkansas is publishing a special section. There are no stories in it. No photographs. Not even any advertisements. Nothing but page after boring page of names and addresses.

You see, September 19 is the start of what Arkansas calls its month-long “Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt,” in which the state auditor’s office tries to match people with millions of dollars in cash and personal property that is rightfully theirs.

“Unclaimed property,” it’s called. It can be an insurance check you received but never cashed and forgot about. Or money and jewels, stocks and bonds from your late parents’ bank lock box.

The bank or insurance company may not keep these valuables. By law, it must turn them over to the state, which makes a serious effort to find the owner.

Courtesy: Arkansas State Auditor

And so, like other states, Arkansas compiles a list of the last known owners of unclaimed property and publishes it in newspapers and online. Arkansas’ unclaimed property reported for 2011 totals close to $23 million, with the owners of an additional $150 million in valuables from previous years still waiting to be found.

The state puts cash in the bank, and other items in two big safes in the capital city of Little Rock. It even saves a few things that have only sentimental value, like a “beanie baby” doll collection and World War ll medals that are starting to turn up regularly now that so many veterans of that war are dying. Among the unusual treasures that Arkansas holds in hopes that someone will claim them are two urns of cremated human remains.

If by chance you’re the owner of any of this property or money - or are that person’s rightful heir - your right to claim it never expires. In Arkansas last year, about six million very happy people were reunited with their money or valuables. No lottery anywhere can match those odds.