Missing cash? B.C.'s unclaimed property fund reaches $177M

Canadian cash is shown: (iStock)

The B.C. Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS) says its total amount of unclaimed or forgotten funds has reached $177 million this year.

The BCUPS is a non-profit group that looks after forgotten or unclaimed funds, which it receives from companies that can't trace them back to their rightful owners.

The funds could come from sources like credit unions, unpaid wages, pension funds, estates, overpayments to debt collectors, or proceeds from municipal and provincial courts.

The BCUPS notes that it does not receive funds from dormant bank accounts, which are overseen by the Bank of Canada.

The B.C. Unclaimed Property Society has a free online database where people can search to see if they have unclaimed funds available.

In 2021, the BCUPS received $4,070,621 from various sources, and returned $717,209 through verified claims.

"People lose track of their funds for a number of reasons," said Alena Levitz, executive director of BCUPS in a release Tuesday. "People tend to move around a lot, change jobs frequently, or simply forget to close an account."

The single largest unclaimed account totals $1.9 million and is part of an estate that the legal inheritors are seemingly unaware of, according to the BCUPS.

Levitz adds that inquires to the BCUPS for unclaimed funds spiked during the pandemic.

"For many cash-strapped British Columbians, being reunited with their unclaimed funds provided welcome financial relief during an unprecedented period of economic adversity," she said.

"The availability of unclaimed funds also helps support numerous social programs and charities across the province."

CHARITABLE FUNDS

Accounts are considered dormant if there has been no activity with them for a specific amount of time, ranging from one year to 10 years, depending on the type of account, according to the BCUPS.

Every year, the society donates some of the unclaimed funds to the Vancouver Foundation for charitable purposes.

Last year, about $6.24 million was transferred from the BCUPS to the Vancouver Foundation – which was then donated to various charities and programs, including Ecotrust Canada, the Victoria Child Abuse & Counselling Centre, the Kamloops Food Policy Council, and more.

B.C. is among four provinces in Canada that has an unclaimed property program – including Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick – but B.C. is the only province that sets aside some of the unclaimed funds for charitable purposes.