He's taken on the role of Sheriff, Sherlock, and international spy. Now, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot portrays a new character in the agency's annual short video publicizing the Maryland unclaimed property list.
“We call it 'The Franchot Zone' where we send you money rather than you send us money,” said Franchot.
The unclaimed property comes from banks or financial organizations that have been holding onto an individual's valuables. After three years of inactivity or not being able to reach the account holder, the company then relinquishes the property to the Maryland Comptroller.
“They're not allowed, under federal and state law, to simply pocket that money and say, ‘Oh, we couldn't find the person, so I guess it’s ours.’ They have to turn it over to our unclaimed property,” said Franchot.
The Maryland unclaimed property list includes 1.2 million accounts valued at $1.5 billion.
Every year, the Comptroller's Office issues a new list of names and accounts. The most recent list includes nearly 80,000 new accounts worth more than $61 million.
The accounts may have belonged to someone who passed away, or they were fortunes that somebody forgot about.
“Once, we sold some stocks, turned out they were worth $250,000,” Franchot said.
Some of this year's findings include a 5 carat diamond ring, gold jewelry, and historic papers dating back to the 1700’s.
The Comptroller's Office will cross reference unclaimed property with tax records. If they can't find a match, they’ll sell the items on their eBay page or hold onto the money until someone comes forward. The proceeds from the items sold can be claimed at any time with no statute of limitations. The funds are also not subject to taxes.
“We get the money on an annual basis. We turn it over to the legislature and they spend it, but the debt is held in perpetuity and that's something that I pride ourselves on,” said Franchot.
Not every state tries to get the word out like Franchot’s office, but he believes in customer service. He's even on occasion personally returned property to names on the list including Maryland Governors Ehrlich and O’Malley.
“Yes, sometimes I get in the car and hand deliver the checks,” Franchot said.
The online database will not show you what the property is, but will list your name and a claim number. You can also contact the Comptroller's Office by calling 410-767-1700, or toll-free at 1-800-782-7383, to find out how to reclaim any lost property.
Also, avoid using sites that charge you to search unclaimed property databases. The service on the Comptroller's website is completely free.
The Comptroller’s Office has honored nearly 43,225 claims totaling more than $62 million in Fiscal Year 2016, according to a press release issued by the agency. Since 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $585 million in unclaimed property.