In Colorado, lost-and-found contacts you

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The homepage of Colorado’s Unclaimed Property Division touts the number of lost items its returned to owners, but a state audit found that the agency has “alarming” problems.

For the first time, the state’s unclaimed property division is proactively seeking owners.

Colorado’s statewide lost-and-found program has accumulated more than $1 billion in unclaimed money since it was created in 1987.

Lately, the program’s been trying something new: It’s proactively attempting to find the owners of that money. In some cases, people are even receiving unexpected checks in the mail.

“Our initiative is to return as much property as possible — whether they’re Coloradans, whether it’s outside of state, our goal is to return as much of this money as possible,” said Bianca Gardelli, director of the state’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Since August, nearly 200 people have received unsolicited checks through a pilot program. The state treasurer’s office is using online research platforms to identify and verify people’s current addresses. So far, about 63% of recipients have cashed the checks, which can range up to $100.

The state has also sent out tens of thousands of postcards since last year under a new program that notifies people they may have unclaimed property with the state. 

The owner-finding effort was recommended as part of an earlier audit of the program, which found the division had a large backlog of unresolved claims, among other issues. That audit was published several months after Treasurer Dave Young was elected.

The proactive programs are likely to continue, Gardelli said, and the state eventually may send unsolicited checks for up to $500 if it can identify owners. Additionally, a state law will allow people to make claims under $1,000 without getting documents notarized.

Money can show up in the unclaimed property program in several ways: For example, someone might forget about a bank account, or fail to cash a check from a government agency. 

To check if the program has anything for you, visit the state’s unclaimed property website. It’s free. This reporter once recovered a lost childhood bank account through New Jersey’s lost-and-found.

The Unclaimed Property Division also has a vault of lost possessions, which has included boxes of gold teeth, cremated remains, jewelry, journals and, among other things, a box of dirt.