October 18, 2007
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Unclaimed Property Podcast
Part 1 Introduction and who is on the annual Unclaimed Property List (Running Time 2:33)
INTRO by R.J. Desilva:
Welcome to this Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Podcast, produced by the Communications
Division. I’m R.J. Desilva, spokesperson for the Comptroller’s office. This podcast is one of a series of
discussions with Comptroller’s office officials. We cover a wide variety of agency topics.
Our podcast host is Leticia Torres.
Hello and welcome. Our topic today is Unclaimed Property.
Our interview is with George Tamayo, Manager of the Unclaimed Property Division of the Comptroller’s
Welcome. Let’s start by discussing the annual Unclaimed Property List that was recently published in
newspapers across the state. How many names are on this list and exactly how much unclaimed property
are we talking about?
Leticia, this year we’re publishing the names of 152,00 individuals who have unclaimed property that was
reported to us just within the last 12 month period. We’re talking about $164 million worth of property that
was represented in the publication and that’s property that we’ve received in the last 12 months.
How is that so many people have unclaimed property?
That’s a good question. We live in a highly mobile society and people move freely from one city to
another, from one job to another and a lot of time their financial assets don’t get caught up with them.
They may not receive the last commission check or their last salary check may not show up before they
move and there may not be a valid forwarding address. That happens quite frequently. Or the utility
deposit that they put down initially, they never go and recover that utility deposit so they’ve moved and it
never catches up with them and it’s reported to us as unclaimed property.
And this can be from many, many years back, correct?
Absolutely, absolutely. We have information on line, on the Comptroller’s Web site, that goes back to
1986 and it represents money that we’ve received over the years and we maintain it on a searchable
database. It’s available 24-7 for people to go and search their names and the cities that they’ve lived in to
see if they have any unclaimed property in our database.
And you tell me you actually have to convince people to look at this list. Why?
Sometimes the hardest part of this job is convincing people that they could potentially have unclaimed
property because people are amazed that they actually have property and obviously it’s unclaimed because
they don’t know about it. So they don’t think they don’t have anything, lo and behold, it’s not unusual for
them to find property they didn’t even know existed.
So it’s a nice surprise?
It’s actually a very nice surprise and that’s the fun part about this job.
Part 2 Description of the types of unclaimed property (Running Time: 44 seconds)
Well tell me a little about some of the unclaimed property.
There’s about a hundred different property types that fall under the unclaimed property of the law,
checking accounts, savings accounts, insurance proceeds, commissions, wages, utility deposits. The list
goes on and on. And one of those items is the contents from abandoned safe deposit boxes and we do
receive the contents after they’ve been held at the bank for a period of five years and the bank attempts to
find the owners. If they’re still are unsuccessful in locating the owners after five years, the property is
reported to us. We of course, publish the names of these individuals in our annual publication and we
inventory and keep the contents of those safe deposit boxes for a period of time in hopes that the owners
will, in fact, reclaim their property.
Part 3 What happens if people don’t claim their property? (Running Time: 2:42)
We don’t always manage to find the owners and obviously we cannot continue to maintain a huge
warehouse of this property so we actually sell and do sell on eBay the contents of these items. Now the
proceeds that we receive of course are maintained in perpetuity for the individuals to come forth and claim
and they will always receive either their contents or the value that we received for their contents if in fact
we sold them.
So anybody can go on eBay, on this auction site, and purchase these items?.
That’s right. EBay provides us with a global market place for our items which actually increases the value
that we receive the property, which is good for the individuals. When they come and recover the value of
their property, this kind of ensures that they got top dollar for those items that were in the box. We can’t
replace them but at least we can give them a very good value for the items that were in the box.
What kind of response have you received?
It’s been quite successful. The eBay program for the state of Texas has been very very successful. It
allows us to sell items, as I said, to a global market place to a larger audience which drives up the value of
the items because it’s what the market will bear. It also reduces our costs because as compared to a live
auction with an auctioneer we pay probably 20 to 25 percent for a live auction. Right now we pay 3 to 5
percent for the fees associated with the eBay auction. So it is a good value for the services that are
provided and we are then able to convert those items for maximum dollars.
How often are these auctions held?
We actually have a weekly auction. It opens and closes on Wednesday of every week. We have a
continuous presence on eBay. So every Wednesday, usually in the afternoon, one set of auctions will close
and another will open. So we will continuously be selling items on eBay.
What are some of those items?
Well they vary from the obvious items such as coins, jewelry, lose stones to maybe baseball trading cards,
comic books, miscellaneous costume jewelries. Very eclectic, a lot of items that we can put out there every
week or we try to put out there every week.
What’s been the most unusual or high dollar item that has been sold on eBay?
Well, gold is going, as you can well imagine the value of gold coins seems to increase almost every week.
So as the market, the world market goes for gold, so goes the value of the items that we’re selling either
scrap gold or gold coins that have additional collectors value in addition to their monetary value as coins,
those seem to be appreciating the greatest here recently.
Part 4 Locating the Unclaimed Property List (Running Time: 1:20)
If people happen to miss the unclaimed property list in their newspaper, where else can they find it?
Oh, I would suggest that they go to our Web site. Go to the Comptroller’s Web site at
www.window.state.tx.us and go to the unclaimed property site and search on-line and to search frequently
because we continually receive reports from businesses and financially institutions of property that’s been
abandoned. We process those reports and put that information on our Web site as soon as we receive it. So
the information there is actually more current than what was in the publication as well as being more
comprehensive. It actually goes back to 1986.
Mr. Tamayo, thank you for participating in today’s podcast.
For those interested in complete details on today’s topic, please visit the Texas Comptroller’s homepage---
www.window.state.tx.us and click on the “Unclaimed Property” link. On behalf of the Texas
Comptroller’s Office, I’m Leticia Torres.
CLOSE by R.J. Desilva:
For more information or to request a media interview, please call the Texas Comptroller of Public
Accounts, Communications Division at area code (512) 463-4070. This podcast was brought to you by the
Texas Comptroller’s office. On behalf of the Communications Division, I’m R.J. Desilva