The unclaimed property division in the Colorado Treasurer's Office has some issues that are undermining the popular program, according to a report released Monday by the Colorado Auditor's Office.
Looking in detail at claims filed over the past five years, 392,938 of the 429,526 claims that were filed during that time were either duplicates, incomplete, inaccurate or questionable, state auditors told the Legislative Audit Committee.
Those claims centered on 713,637 properties, more than 650,000 of which were for cash or cash equivalents that are worth more than $271 million.
"The division has not mailed notifications since March 2005 to approximately 1.6 million owners of unclaimed property as required by state statute," the audit says. "The division accepts unclaimed property from holders with an unknown or unidentified name — even if the property would be expected to have an owner name — for properties such as payroll checks, savings accounts and safe deposit boxes."
Bianca Gardelli, who was appointed as the director of the program in January by newly elected Colorado Treasurer Dave Young, said much of the department's problem with dealing with unclaimed property is a lack of information, including by people making claims.
She said the program, also known as the Great Colorado Payback, stopped mailing notices to property owners years ago because more than half of them were being returned as undeliverable. That's why the Colorado Legislature changed the law during this year's session to allow the program to use email addresses instead.
Gardelli and Young said all of the problems addressed by the audit are already being addressed.
"If a claim comes in, it comes from people in the public ... and they don't sometimes give us complete information," Young said. "This is not the kind of audit I would like to see coming from unclaimed properties, but it's the first one I'm aware of that's been done on this division. I think that maybe this is a situation that's gone on for sometime, and it now is rightfully before the audit committee."
Since the program was created in 1987, it has returned about $452 million worth of such property as cash, checks, gift cards, precious metals and contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes, to name a few.
Currently, the program is in possession of more than $41 million in money orders, $35 million in uncashed checks and $23 million in unused gift cards. Those three categories make up the bulk of more than $137 million worth of property the division controls.
Other categories include such things as pensions, annuities, and checking, savings and escrow accounts.
When monetary property is held by the office, it is placed into accounts that earn interest, money the state uses to help fund tourism promotion.
To check for possible unclaimed property, go to colorado.findyourunclaimedproperty.com.