How to find your unclaimed money

- An 80-year-old woman living on the streets of Washington D.C. for years has finally been paid $100,000 that was owed to her by the federal government.

Wanda Witter became homeless in part because the Social Security Administration messed up and didn't pay her what she was owed. A social worker met Witter on the street and eventually helped her navigate through the red tape.

According to the Washington Post, the agency finally paid Witter what it owed her and she received her payout on Tuesday.

While Witter's case is unusual, money experts say government mix-ups, unclaimed checks or refunds can happen.

Millions of dollars in unclaimed money for people around the country come from things such as uncashed paychecks, unredeemed gift cards, leftover income tax refunds, stocks and accounts you haven't touched for years or forgot about.

This unclaimed money goes back to the states, and while the statutes vary from state to state, it is on you to find it and start the claims process.

It is easy to do and considering there is about $42 billion out there unclaimed, your piece of the pie could be big.

"They say the average claim is $800 or so – that's real money – and it's your money,” said money expert Elisabeth Leamy. “It's not the government's money, but I caution you, everybody should be searching for their unclaimed money because a couple of states now have started to say that it is their money if people don't claim it in a certain number of years.”

She added, “Consider that if you are not the type of person to leave money lying around unclaimed, maybe a deceased loved one did. Very often I have found unclaimed money from deceased loved ones for their family members.”

There are some websites out there that are free to check for unclaimed money that may belong to you:

www.missingmoney.com

www.unclaimed.org

Unclaimed money websites for Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.:

Virginia - https://www.trs.virginia.gov/vaMoneySearch/Account/LogOn

D.C. - http://cfo.dc.gov/service/unclaimed-property

Maryland - http://comptroller.marylandtaxes.com/Public_Services/Unclaimed_Property/

Leamy warns there are websites out there that charge you for the service, but no matter where you live, you never have to pay to claim your money.

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