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FAIRGOERS PUNCH NAMES INTO COMPUTER, SEEKING SOME OF $115 MILLION IN UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

 OLYMPIA,Wash., Aug. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 6,400 people punched their names into a computer terminal at the Clark County Fair recently, hoping to learn that they had a right to a portion of $115 million in lost paychecks, old bank deposits, uncashed dividends, and assorted refunds, the Washington State Department of Revenue said today.
 Nearly 1,000 found out that they may be entitled to some of the $6 million or so returned to rightful owners each year by the Unclaimed Property Section of the Washington State Department of Revenue.
 Many of the claims will net only a few dollars from an old utility bill credit or long-forgotten savings account. But others can be substantial, such as the Seattle-area janitorial service that somehow had never cashed a $7,000 paycheck that a customer eventually turned into the department.
 Every year, locator Mel Kirpes and other members of the department's Unclaimed Property Section track down the rightful owners or heirs of the $15 million or so turned in annually by businesses after going unclaimed for up to five years.
 Last year, the department set up computer terminals at county fairs and shopping malls where passers-by could punch in their names or the names of a departed relative who may have left something behind. It's been a popular feature, particularly since a surprising number of people find out they may have money coming, Kirpes said.
 "I've got to admit that it's more fun to give away money than to collect it," he added.
 Over the next two weeks, the department will take out notices in newspapers listing the names of 11,369 people and businesses who have been added to the unclaimed property rolls since last year, and who have $75 or more coming.
 The names are published by the last-known county in which a person resided, so it's possible someone could live in one county and not realize that their names are appearing in notices in other counties in which they once lived, program manager Joel Graham said. A person also could be among the 800,000 or so names that have piled up since the Unclaimed Property Act was passed in 1955, he said. Any unclaimed property reported to the department is held in trust without any time limits on placing a claim.
 While the law only requires that the state advertise the names of owners of unclaimed property turned in by businesses each year, the department doesn't stop there, Graham said. The department routinely scans telephone directories for potential claimants, and mails notices to last-known addresses, if available.
 "We like to operate it as a consumer protection pregram," he said. "Over the years, the public has asked us to use every means we can to reunite owners with their property."
 The program is self-supporting and requires no tax dollars. Its budget is financed by incoming unclaimed revenues, the excess of which are deposited into the state general fund. There is no time limit for claims, however, so the state maintains a reserve based on anticipated claims.
 The department's computer terminals will be at the Southwest Fair in Chehalis until Aug. 23, at the Evergreen Fair in Monroe from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, or at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup Sept. 9-26. People also may call the Unclaimed Property Section at 206-586-2736 or write to The Washington State Department of Revenue, Unclaimed Property Section, P.O. Box 448, Olympia, WA 98507.
 -0- 8/23/93
 /CONTACT: Joel Graham, unclaimed property manager, of the Washington State Department of Revenue, 206-586-2360/


CO: Washington State Department of Revenue ST: Washington IN: SU:

CO-JH -- SE005 -- 5138 08/23/93 15:39 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 23, 1993
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