For years you’ve heard about Louisiana’s Unclaimed Property Program and how the state works to reunite owners with their missing funds. One thing you may not have heard about the program is there are people out there who try to profit from it. These individuals and businesses are called finders, heir finders, or asset locators, and they’ve been around since we began returning unclaimed money more than 40 years ago.

Louisiana keeps a massive database of Unclaimed Property records going back all the way to 1972. Finders use information available to the public hoping to get rich on the backs of Unclaimed Property claimants.

Here’s how they do it. Finders will contact people who have money being held by our office and tell them that they’ve discovered a missing asset that belongs to them. The finder will offer to help them claim the money, but there is a fee attached for this help. Some finders operate in bulk by contacting a large number of individuals hoping to cash in on multiple claims, even if they’re relatively small dollar amounts. Others hope to strike it big with one or two large claims.

Some finders are legitimate and operate within the law; however, it will still cost you. By law, finders legally cannot charge you more than 10 percent of the amount of the Unclaimed Property.

Unfortunately, others are no better than scam artists. They may contact you even if you do not have any money, or they may charge you over the legally allowed rate. We’ve heard of instances, for example, when a finder would charge a flat fee of $50, but the Unclaimed Property itself wasn’t even worth that amount. We’ve also heard of scams where the company offers to help a person claim lost assets for a flat fee of $14.95 or $19.95 and all you get is a list of all 50 states’ Unclaimed Property offices.

One of the many problems we have with finders is the way they conduct their business. When they contact you, they will not disclose where your money is being held. They often try to get you to sign a contract first, and you may find out later that our office was holding the money all along. If your money has already been turned over to the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Division, you could have claimed it directly from us at no charge.

With today’s advanced technologies, asset locators are now sending out their initial contact letters with a website link. The recipient of the letter is instructed to go online to proceed, and the contract is simply a check box acknowledgement and e-signature.  Owners who’ve signed up this way have told us that they did not even realize they were signing a contract.

Even if a finder claims to have located money for you in another state, our advice is to always call us first before you sign anything. In fact, to be on the safe side, we never recommend using this type of service, especially because we will assist you free of charge.

We run a toll-free number at 1-888-925-4127 where our staff will walk you through the process of filing a claim from start to finish. An even better option, in my opinion, is our online claim feature. It’s been updated this year and is quick and easy to use.

It may be tempting and sound easier to let someone else do the Unclaimed Property work for you, but nothing is further from the truth. Finding and claiming Unclaimed Property truly is a free and easy service. And a finder does not have the inside track or any more information than is already available publicly for free. Simply put, there’s no good reason to pay a fee to claim your Unclaimed Property when the State Treasurer’s Office will do it for you for free.

Sarah Mulhearn
(225) 342-0012