Free money is out there for you to snatch up

Posted at 1:31 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 18:17:44-05

Did you know there's money out there just begging for you to snatch it up? You just need to know where to look.

Laura Parnell owns Cool Beans Cafe in Medina. “I had just heard about somebody who had gotten some money back and I thought what the heck. I'll give it a try," Parnell told us. She was able to pick up a very sweet treat. "It was over $350 for me.”

Parnell typed her name into the Ohio Department of Commerce's Unclaimed Funds site that tracks bank accounts, rent or utility deposits, uncashed checks and more that people, just like you, have forgotten about. When it worked for Parnell, she kept going. "Of course, I looked up everybody I knew and actually one of my employees here, her husband had three different accounts that she claimed."

Records show, at the end of last year, close to $2.3 billion were waiting to be collected.  There's no time limit to gathering your money, but just be ready to spend some time getting it.

We called the unclaimed funds phone system several times and our wait was anywhere from 30-40 minutes.  But keep in mind in the first two months of this year alone, the division handled more than 7800 calls with eight dedicated employees for those conversations.

Tim Black from Ashland is going through the process after finding his name in the paper. He's hit some snags but he and his wife are in line to get more than 260 bucks. "It's just nice to know that we can get it,” said Black. “Called the state and they said there's no deadline. Just have to get the paperwork in and every little bit helps."

"It's a mini-lottery,” laughed Parnell.

Speaking of the lottery, here in Ohio each year for the past three years, more than $13 million were left unclaimed including people who've won Mega Millions, Powerball, daily draws, and scratch-off prizes.

"We don't want people to leave money on the table,” said Ohio Lottery Spokesperson Danielle Frizzi-Babb. “We want our players to come and claim their prizes."

But unlike the Division of Unclaimed Funds, the Ohio Lottery allows 180 days to collect. Frizzi-Babb told us about a recent call from a woman who found a ticket in her glovebox past the 180 days. The prize was several hundred thousand dollars. "I almost didn't want to say, ‘Oh, those were the winning numbers’ because it just makes you sick to your stomach knowing you missed out on something like that," said Frizzi-Babb.

Best advice? Double check all of your tickets. Take them into the store to be scanned or you can use the Ohio Lottery App to scan them yourself. The Ohio Lottery said there's a Lucky for Life ticket that was sold in Cleveland for $25,000 a year for life that hasn't been claimed yet.

The largest unclaimed Ohio Lottery winning ticket was back in November of 2002 with Super Lotto Plus. $14 million dollars came and went.

In addition to unclaimed money, the government has introduced newly permanent tax breaks you can take advantage of.  We talked with Jeff Warnkin who is a certified public accountant with the JL Smith Group in Avon. He said you should check out the American Opportunity Credit. It can help some people with kids in college. "It's up to a maximum of $2500 and a credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your taxes. So, it's a very valuable credit," Warnkin said.

He also told us that in Ohio, if you own and run your own business, Corp or LLC, then huge money is on its way. "You get to exclude 75 percent of the first $250,000 of that income for 2015. But it gets better,” said Warnkin. “Starting in 2016 and beyond, you'll be able to exclude 100 percent of that income." Check out the additional interview video attached to this story for more tax tips.

Parnell from Cool Beans Café runs her own business and has been able to pour some money into her pocket. “It all adds up. It's money that is yours in the first place. Just go claim it,” she told us with a smile.