$30.5 million in property funds have yet to be claimed by Buncombe residents

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell presents a check from the unclaimed property fund to the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.

As it turns out, money is free.

And Buncombe County residents, according to N.C. State Treasurer have the largest chunk in Western North Carolina coming to them.

With $30.5 million, Buncombe leads the nine counties in the area with the highest amount of unclaimed money at NCCash, followed by Henderson County with a little more than $12 million and Rutherford County with more than $6 million.

Just over $1 million has been paid to claimants with a Buncombe County address for the fiscal year of June 1, 2020, to July 30, 2021, based on staff reports from the treasurer's office. 

"This actually goes on all year long," said Dale Folwell, state treasurer. "This is where somebody tried to mail you a check that you did not get or did not cash."

The more than $30.5 million, spread out over 369,249 properties, isn't just uncashed checks, according to data from the state treasurer's office.  

"As you would suspect, that number constantly fluctuates as people claim their money and it is taken out of NC Cash, and as new pools of money come in to the fund," said Dan Way, the communications manager for the office of the state treasurer. 

State records indicate an unofficial total of more than $70 million returned to North Carolina residents during the most recent fiscal year. NC Cash, the online database where state residents can access unclaimed money, advertises a rough total of $919 million in the unclaimed property fund. 

Folwell said the unclaimed money mainly accounts for uncashed checks, abandoned lockboxes and rent deposits. He said one entry of $1.5 million came from a lockbox whose owner could not be identified. 

"This is not just individuals," Folwell said. "There's a million dollars that belongs to churches, there's 57 rotary clubs in there, there's the Asheville Chamber of Commerce." 

The state treasurer said his office recently discovered and awarded $16,000 to Warren Wilson College. While in the area, Folwell said he found multiple entries in the database for the town of Montreat, as well as eight entries for Montreat College. 

According to Folwell, "every state" has a fund of unclaimed money. 

Folwell said it would be difficult for the treasurer's office to contact residents as there are twice as many records as state residents. The treasurer offers NC Cash as a means for residents and organizations to search and locate unclaimed money in their name. 

The database requires residents to submit a social security number with each claim as the treasurer's office can only identify unclaimed funds through the number under which the funds were initially given. It also helps narrow down specifics and eliminates confusion for applicants with similar names. 

What happens if the money is never claimed?

"The money stays in there forever," Folwell said.