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State program that handles missing money has serious issues, audit finds 

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Found a gift card Grandma gave you for your birthday 20 years ago? Fixin’ to throw it away?

Don’t, says Bianca Gardelli, director of Colorado’s Unclaimed Property Division.

Gardelli’s division, also known as the Great Colorado Payback, works to reunite individuals, businesses and government agencies with their unclaimed cash, gift cards, securities and items from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

Businesses such as banks and utility companies report the unclaimed property to the division. An individual or entity can make a “claim” to retrieve property by providing proof of ownership, which may include legal documents or a Social Security number.

According to a July report from the state auditor, the division is holding more than $23 million worth of gift cards waiting to be claimed by unknown owners.

People hoping to cash in on their old gift cards need to have the physical card or card number handy, Gardelli explained to the Legislative Audit Committee at a July 29 hearing: “We’re not going to have [an owner’s] name if it’s a [low-balance] gift card,” she said.

But missing owner names on many of the division’s unclaimed properties represented just one of many problems called out in the auditor’s report. Other key issues:
  1. The division had more than $1.6 million in unclaimed cash property belonging to other state departments. That’s despite the fact that state statute requires the division to transfer cash and noncash properties to the appropriate state department after receiving it.

    2. The division is holding unclaimed property that belongs to 39 other state governments, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

    3. While the division followed up on the majority of claims within the 90-day time frame required by state statute, it took more than a year to respond to hundreds of claims created between May 2017 and March 2019.
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While the audit appears damning, state Treasurer Dave Young says Gardelli and her team have made great strides. When Gardelli arrived in May 2018, the division had a backlog of 12,600 claims, Young told the committee. Between that time and March of this year, Gardelli and her team reduced the backlog to 2,200 claims, while processing nearly 26,000 new claims.

The division committed to improving its processes and workflow, to continue reducing the backlog, and address the other issues detailed in the audit — many of which, according to Gardelli and Young, had grown over decades.

To see if you have unclaimed property, visit colorado.findyourunclaimedproperty.com.

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