West Virginians go online for unclaimed property

CHARLESTON — Almost half of the claim applications to the Unclaimed Property Division in December were made electronically, the West Virginia treasurer said.

The trend is not unusual as the Fast Track program attempts to get money in claimants’ hands faster, Treasurer John Perdue said.

Claimants filed 363 claims by electronic means in December, accounting for 48.3 percent of all claims filed, he said. An electronic claim is one in which the claimant goes to www.wvtreasury.com and files online, providing identifying information without having to submit paper documents.

E-claims have traditionally been tailored to relatively low-dollar amount claims for property with a single owner. More complicated claims often involve providing paper documentation, such as wills or business documents, Perdue said

“We try to remain on the cutting edge of technology,” Perdue said. “An e-claim is by far our most popular option for claimants. The claim can be filed from the comfort of their home.”

Unclaimed property is any financial asset from which an individual has become unintentionally separated. Examples are forgotten utility deposits, a left-behind final paycheck and abandoned safe deposit box contents.

Other sources of unclaimed property claims were owner claims, at 27 percent of claims filed, and claims generated directly from newspaper inserts, at 16.8 percent. Various other sources made up the rest.

An owner claim is a paper claim filed by the property owner. Often the claimant discovers the asset on the Treasurer’s office website, downloads the paper form from the website and physically mails the document.

The claimant may also call 1-800-642-8687 to find out whether the office is holding his or her property, and then file a claim. Newspaper advertisements are those claims in which the constituent uses the form printed twice a year in “Discover,” a partial listing of approximately 13,000 rightful owners of unclaimed property.

Each new list in “Discover” has never been published before.

Fast Track claims are expedited e-claims which use external databases to verify the identity of the claimant and determine whether it matches the property owner. If claims are of a relatively small amount and meet specific identification standards, those claims may be “fast tracked” for automated approval.

Fast Track has been in place since last fall with about 1,000 claims processed, said Carolyn Atkinson, deputy treasurer for unclaimed property.

“Fast Track helps us to be more efficient while ensuring that claims are paid to the rightful owner,” Atkinson said.