The State Had One Woman’s Unclaimed Funds. It Turned Out to Be a Windfall

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A financial firm told an account owner that it had turned over her money to the state. When she filed a claim, something strange happened.

Early in 2022, Sarah F. Cox got wind that someone named Connie was looking for her. The stranger wanted to reunite Ms. Cox with some lost money under her name that the State of New York was holding.

It sounded like a scam, so she didn’t bother following up immediately. But months later, Ms. Cox called Connie back when she was visiting the United States while moving from China to Singapore, where she lives now. It turned out that Connie was a kind of bounty hunter, helping people and businesses navigate states’ unclaimed property databases.

If she found your name, she would try to track you down and help you get back money that you may not have even realized was missing. For a cut, of course.

Ms. Cox decided to find the information on her own, and sure enough, the online unclaimed property database that New York maintains had her name. And then it hit her — she had forgotten all about an old investment account.

The money in question originally came from a wealthy family friend who had tried to bolster Ms. Cox, who is 41, with an early selection of investments. She doesn’t remember the size of the original deposit or the date, but it was years before she turned 18. And by the time she became a young adult — which overlapped with the 2008 market meltdown — she wasn’t paying much attention to the size of the balance.

Why not? Well, because people like me and other elders told her to pay the markets almost no mind. “My father wasn’t too specific other than ‘It’s for the long term’ and ‘Don’t meddle,’” she said.

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