DES MOINES — The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt returned an overall record of more than $30 million in unclaimed funds in 2023. State Treasurer Roby Smith says that included a record single return to one individual of $4.5 million.
“The average claim is anywhere from you know 50 to 100 dollars, but you got to understand there’s a couple of five dollar ones that bring that average down to, and then you have a couple of large ones,” he says. Smith says people lose track of money in all sorts of ways. “Some of them are lost utility refunds, some of them are lost deposits on an apartment or forgotten about savings or checking accounts,” Smith says. “Some of it comes from stocks, dividends, and bonds and then we have safe deposit boxes that are abandoned after three years to get turned over to the state along with the money, and then we look to try to find the rightful owners and get it back.”
Smith says it’s easy to check for funds by going to GreatIowaTreasureHunt.gov. He says you may see the name of someone you know when you are checking to see if there’s any money there for you. “About one in ten Iowans have money out there, so if you can think of ten family members, statistically one of them will have money,” Smith says. “And you can make their day and you can call them up and say ‘Hey I was on the great Iowa Treasure Hunt website and found your name.’ And tell them to go ahead and put the claim in.”
It’s not just individuals who have unclaimed money. “We’ve had nonprofits we’ve had counties we’ve had school districts businesses individuals, you name it, is on the website. And it’s every year the money comes in, so we encourage people to go out there at least once a year and check for themselves,” he says. Smith says the abundance of scams out there seeking to take people’s money can be a detriment to the Treasure Hunt returning money. “The biggest obstacle we have is that some people think that it’s a scam,” Smith says. “And we appreciate the Iowans are vigilant on any scam opportunities that are out there. But we encourage people if they have any questions or they receive a letter in the mail from us they can call our office they can verify that it’s legitimate.”
Smith says they still have some $53 million in unclaimed funds waiting for someone to come forward to collect them.