Unclaimed Property

March 30, 2006

The full-page ad caught my eye this morning, perhaps because of the large picture of Robert P. Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania’s state treasurer, whose eyebrows make him look something like Bert of Bert and Ernie. (This is not a criticism. I like Mr. Casey, who has my support in challenging Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate. I also like Bert.) Casey’s office was placing one of its periodic notices that unclaimed property turned over to the state for safekeeping is available to the rightful owner upon presentation of a claim. This notice used to involve pages of names in tiny print. Now there’s a searchable database that computer users can access for the information.

Most of the unclaimed property that the state holds is in the form of negotiable paper, such as checks, bonds, and stocks. But some of it is real. In 1998, when Lynn and I did some publicity work for the Pennsylvania Tuition Account Program, then-treasurer Barbara Hafer took us on a tour of her facility, which included a visit to the vault in the basement where the property is kept. We saw a lot of conventional filing cabinets that we assumed held all the checks and insurance policies and even envelopes full of cash that people had forgotten was theirs. But we also saw glass cases that looked like something in a jewelry store, full of rings and necklaces and military medals, and wardrobes that held gowns and furs.

When I read the ad, a memory sprang to my mind of a small account I had with a credit union founded in the early 1970s by members of a feminist organization in Harrisburg. I can’t remember if this group was formally affiliated with the National Organization for Women. I just remember the meetings in the old YWCA building at Fourth and Walnut, gatherings of women who were concerned about many things. They wanted to address the problems of equality in employment and credit. They organized efforts to demand expanded opportunities for girls and women in sports participation and education. And they called for the elimination of lopsided policies in schools and jobs that limited the rights of pregnant women.

I ponied up $25 to become a charter member of the First Pennsylvania Feminist Credit Union (I might have that name wrong). I was single in those days, financing graduate school and a rattly blue Vega and taking home about $400 a month. $25 was a lot of money, but I believed in the cause. I got a blue passbook that I kept in a drawer with my green Harris Building and Loan book. The green book got stamped by a machine whenever I made a deposit. The blue book had the entries hand-written by whatever volunteer was handling transactions at the time it was presented. I made a few more deposits, probably never having more than $100 in the account. Eventually I forgot about it. I remember hearing in the late 70s that the organization had closed, and that depositors were entitled to the return of their funds (this was established as a federal credit union, insured). But for one reason or another, I didn’t do anything about it.

So it was with some curiosity, but not much hope, that I called up the online database for the unclaimed property and began entering various names. I tried my maiden name, thinking I might find that forgotten money invested with the feminists. Nothing. I typed in the name from my first marriage that I was using when that credit union closed. Still nothing. I also tried my mother’s name. She died in 1993 and the estate was settled, but some policy or certificate or bank accouint might have escaped my attention back then. Nothing there either.

“DeAngelis, M,” however, got several hits, and one of them, Margaret Y. DeAngelis, of the address where I have lived since 1976, is definitely me. It’s an uncashed check issued by Capital One Bank in August of 1996. The ZIP code on the address is wrong in the second digit, so that’s probably why I never received it. The money appears to be associated with a Visa credit card.

I can’t figure out what this might be. Chances are, it’s a refund of an overpayment I might have made to an account I had closed. I have a current Capital One account, but it’s a MasterCard (a Platinum Prestige card, even — I’ve come a long way, baby!), so it’s not that. The database says that the amount is less than $100. Worth pursuing, I figured.

I printed out a claim form. I filled it out and then checked the requirements for submission. Point #5 advises me to “Submit the original property that is listed on the enclosed claim form.”

Gee, Treasurer Casey, if I had the original property, would I be making a claim for it, hmm? “If the property is lost or otherwise unavailable, you must submit the enclosed Affidavit and Indemnification agreement after you have signed it in the presence of a notary public.”

Okay, so the services of a notary will cost me a few bucks. Just how far under $100 is that uncashed check, and will it even be honored?

I had to go to the pharmacy anyway and the Mail Boxes Etc. beside it offers notary services, so I decided to pursue this to the end.

Now I’m a good customer at this MBE. We ship things to Ron’s grandchildren in Texas, and I pay in advance for copy cards (2000 at a time brings the cost way down) and fax services. The owners, both notaries, know me.

Unfortunately, it was Megan, the snippy one, not Donna the nice one, who was on duty.

“Hi,” I said. “I need something notarized.” I smiled.

“Do you have an appointment?” No smile.

“Well, no I don’t.”

“You need an appointment to have something notarized.”

And I’m supposed to know this, how? “OK,” I said. “Let me make an appointment.”

“I’m not busy now, so I guess I can do it.”

She charged me $7. “It’s $5 to get the seal out and $2 for each signature,” she said. “Next time, make an appointment.”

Oh, I will. And the next time I need a copy card, I’m going to a different MBE.

I left with my notarized affidavit and a copy of my driver’s license. Now I just have to provide proof that I resided or did business at the address indicated on the form. I wrote on the paper below the image of the license (which, of course, has my address on it), that the ZIP code indicated is in Newtonville, New York, not Pennsylvania.

I mailed it this morning. I hope the check is for at least $7.025.

Love it? Hate it? Just want to say Hi? Leave a comment, or e-mail me:
margaretdeangelis [at] gmail [dot] com (replace the brackets with @ and a period)

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