2 Investigates

Georgia could be holding onto cash that belongs to you… and you may not even realize it

ATLANTA — It’s not a scam or a trick. It’s billions of dollars of Georgians’ lost money just waiting for them to claim it.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray and our investigative team noticed likely tens and possibly hundreds of millions worth of that money was essentially hidden.

Georgia’s searchable website for unclaimed property was only showing claims more than $50.

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That means you could have had several claims for $20, $30 or $40 out there and you wouldn’t know about it.

After we started asking questions, Georgia changed the site to make all unclaimed property easier to find.

It’s a simple search online. Free money. No strings attached.

Dale Benerofe sat down with Gray to search for her money after a big change was made to the State of Georgia’s unclaimed property website.

“The beginning part was easy. Type your name into Georgia Unclaimed Properties and wait to see what pops up. You’d be amazed,” she said.

Benerofe certainly was. She had already discovered $23,000 in unclaimed property from her deceased parents.

“It would be a godsend. Really would,” she said.

Channel 2 Action News first started looking into Georgia’s unclaimed property program earlier this year because we noticed a big issue. Millions of dollars of your money were unsearchable. In Georgia, you could not search for claims under $50.

Ron Lizzi is an unclaimed property watchdog.

“There’s no excuse for not showing those properties. Their job is to return the money, not hide it,” he said.

It was just a matter of days after we asked the State Department of Revenue why you can’t search for claims under $50 when they changed the website. It now allows you to see unclaimed money under $50 and even under $5.

“Well, I’m, thank you if you spurred us taking that step. Because it’s something that, I wish we’d done sooner,” Frank O’Connell said.

O’Connell is Georgia’s revenue commissioner. In 2023, Georgia returned only $39 million of the $253 million in unclaimed money it received back to the rightful owners.

“It’s our responsibility to try to unite them with their money,” O’Connell said.

We put it to the test at Channel 2 Action News, asking our colleagues to search the names.

“When I first saw it, I was like, is this a scam?”

Of the 50 Channel 2 employees who searched, 36 got cash totaling more than $5,500. Nearly three-quarters of those claims would have been unsearchable before under $50 claims were added.

Annie Server in our sales department found $1,100.

“You know, me being a mom, I was like, I’m going to spend it on me. I was like, spa day,” she said.

But it’s not always so simple to receive the money you find. Benerofe provided her parents’ death certificates and all the documents that the state website says are required. But her $23,000 in claims were rejected.

“My mom would be livid,” she said.

Benerofe was told she needed to provide her father’s driver’s license. It’s long gone. He died nearly two decades ago.

“This is their hard-earned money that has kind of gotten lost. And it’s just not right,” Benerofe said.

Starting July 1, a change to Georgia law will allow third parties to reach out to Georgians about unclaimed property. The commissioner expects that to bring a flood of new claims.

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“We’re going to double the size of our staff from about 15 to close to 30. Because we know there’s going to be such an increase in claims,” O’Connell said.

“I have almost a dozen new ones,” Benerofe said.

She ended up finding several new under $50 claims when we searched. But it’s now been since May 2023 that she’s been waiting on the $23,000 that she says rightfully belongs to her family.

“It’s stressful. It weighs on me. And it’s time-consuming.”

The state says it doesn’t have a dollar number on how many claims under $50 are out there.



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