Is there any greater small joy in life than reaching into a coat pocket or opening a desk drawer and discovering a forgotten $5 bill? Heck, I'll settle for a few quarters hidden in-between sofa cushions. Well, I found the online equivalent, but instead of .25 cents here and $5 there, I discovered $55.00 owed to me I had long forgotten. My state, California, has an Unclaimed Property Law (PDF) requiring "corporations, businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies to annually report and deliver property to the California State Controller's Office after there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for a period of time specified in the law, generally three years or more". In layperson's terms, this means states keep records and funds/non-monetary property owed to citizens from a variety of sources.
In my case, I had forgotten a portion of an apartment rental security I was owed after I moved back from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And once I knew I had money/property to claim, I notified everyone else I knew to check their names and cross-reference the jobs/addresses referenced. You'll need to file a claim, and depending upon which state, you'll have to send in a form via snail mail or using an online submission form.
While most friends discovered modest amounts (all still worth claiming, especially when totaled up from multiple sources), one friend was owed tens of thousands of dollars from unclaimed freelance paychecks and a real estate sale; in total the claimed funds helped close a purchase of a new home (!). I had a few friends reward me for the tipoff in cupcakes (hint, hint).
There should be a search sites for all states (looks like Alabama's site is down), including California, Texas, Illinois, and New York.
You can easily find unclaimed fund databases specific to a state using the search terms "unclaimed+property+search+YOUR STATE HERE". Remember to check out states where you might have once lived or attended college, alongside using any variation of names you might have used (e.g. "Greg" and "Gregory"). Otherwise, try using MissingMoney.com.
Good luck, and hopefully you'll share your some happy findings here after searching.
(Image: Jason Rodway)