Monday, December 12, 2011

Get the Gift of Forgotten Green

December can be full of unexpected surprises – a holiday card from a long-lost friend, a sudden snow day from work or school, or a fabulous gift from your wish list. But for a quick moment of pure unmitigated cheer, a seasonal favorite has to be pulling out your heavy coat in anticipation of another dreary winter, and finding some long-forgotten cash in the pocket.

But wouldn’t it be even better if that crumpled-up $20 bill was a check for $1,500? The Internal Revenue Service recently announced that more than $150 million in federal tax refunds have gone undelivered this year, usually due to outdated mailing addresses. If you’re one of the 99,123 taxpayers who is still waiting for a refund check, visit the IRS status lookup page Where’s My Refund? You’ll need to provide your Social Security Number, filing status and the exact amount of the refund. With the average unclaimed refund totaling $1,547, the site is certainly worth a visit.

The IRS isn’t the only place which may be holding on to your unclaimed money, though. The federal portal contains a page of pointers for locating unclaimed money from failed banks, HUD, employer pension funds, and old savings bonds. There’s also a link to equivalent state government websites via, which can link you to utility and security deposits from past addresses, old bank accounts, and other unclaimed property. Each state will provide a search feature, as well as instructions for how to claim your money.

Finally, December is a great time to grab any or all of your three free annual credit reports for 2011, which are provided at This site was created by the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and EquiFax – after a 2003 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandated that consumers must be able to receive a copy of their credit report from each agency at no charge once per year (15 U.S.C. 1681j). (Afraid you'll mistakenly end up at one of the commercial websites which claim to offer free credit reports, but actually sign you up for expensive credit-monitoring services? Use the link through the Federal Trade Commission’s website to be sure.)

For help with finding more consumer protection resources online or in the library, be sure to Ask a Librarian.