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Frederick News Post: Political Notes: Comptroller’s office to help link residents to unclaimed money

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is coming to The Great Frederick Fair, and he’s bringing you money. Each year the comptroller’s office hosts a booth at the fair focused on helping reunite residents with unclaimed dollars that are turned over to his agency. “I guarantee you have a better chance of getting money from me than a lotto ticket,” Franchot said. The comptroller’s office receives property including jewelry, collectibles and money from safe deposit boxes, or misplaced insurance refunds that go unclaimed, Franchot said. For instance, sometimes a person with a life insurance policy dies and the people in the will may never learn they were left money, he said. After three years, the bank or corporation in this instance has to turn the money over to the comptroller’s office, which works to get the money to those people. The office takes in about $70 million to $80 million in unclaimed property a year, Franchot said, and his office currently has a log of $1 billion in unclaimed funds. “We’re becoming increasingly successful at reuniting people with their money,” Franchot said. “But we’re trying get even more aggressive in how we get it to them.” Typically, if the office finds out it owes someone money, and it can verify their address through tax records, they will send a letter to the person letting them know they have money waiting for them, Franchot said. Going forward, Franchot said his office is considering being more aggressive by just sending the money in the mail, as long as they’re sure it is going to the correct person. At the Maryland State Fair, the comptroller’s office returned a total of $385,000 to 331 fairgoers, including more than $28,000 to one resident. At The Great Frederick Fair last year, his office handed out $35,000 to 76 people, which Franchot said was a bit of a slow year. The typical refund is around $1,000, he said. Fairgoers who stop at the comptroller’s booth can check if they have any unclaimed funds, and upon verifying the person’s identity, the office will cut them a check within the next week, he said. Even if a fairgoer doesn’t think they have any unclaimed money, Franchot said they should stop by and double-check. “Even if it ends up just being $50, that’s a tank of gas that you didn’t have before,” Franchot said. While Franchot’s office will have a booth at the fair, he urges anyone to contact his office at 410-767-1700 or toll-free at 800-782-7383 to find out how to reclaim their lost property. Marylanders can also see if their name is on the list through marylandtaxes.gov. Though my time as the political reporter at The Frederick News-Post has been brief, I had potentially my all-time favorite moment in this position at this week’s County Council candidate forum. During a series of yes or no questions, several candidates avoided giving yes or no answers by qualifying their answers or saying “depends.” As the noncommitals increased, Steve McKay, the Republican council candidate for District 2, tried to avoid waffling when the microphone came to him. “I’m trying to avoid depends,” McKay said. An observer yelled: “Aren’t we all.”

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