BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Need some help paying for Christmas gifts? You might want to search the state's unclaimed property database, which contains $635 million in unclaimed money owed to people around Louisiana.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other items are sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.
State Treasurer John Kennedy has been trying to give the money back, printing advertisements in newspapers and traveling to malls to tell people about the database. He's even slapped the website address on the side of a truck in the Natchitoches Christmas parade.
Kennedy said Friday more than 500,000 people are owed money. He's urging people to check out the state's unclaimed property website over the holiday season.
"It'd be nice to have a check waiting for you from the state in January to pay some of those bills," he said. "Your odds are a whole lot better than winning the lottery."
The average claim is $660, but some are much larger. A woman in north Louisiana recently found out her husband took out a life insurance policy she didn't know about and will be receiving a $60,000 check from the state.
The state fights two things in trying to give people their money back, Kennedy said. Either people don't know about the online site, or they think it's a trick, he said.
People claimed more than $35 million through the database in the budget year that ended June 30. But another $98 million of unclaimed property rolled into the state, Kennedy said.
"We get more money in as quickly as we return it," he said.
The treasurer's office will be visiting a Metairie mall next month with laptop computers, hoping to find more people who are owed money. The program has returned $338 million to 570,000 people since it was created in 1972.
Search for unclaimed property at: http://bit.ly/1vZUzlM