Scam alert: Fake 'unclaimed property' letter may look real, but don't fall for it, BBB warns

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about an unclaimed property scam that may look legitimate.

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Randy Hutchison, president of the BBB of the Mid-South, told WHBQ that he was targeted by the scam and said he was almost fooled himself.

The letterhead looks official and even the website is convincing, but Hutchison said the letter is the work of a scammer.

Hutchison told WHBQ that someone faxed him a document earlier this month claiming to be an attorney in Canada named Manfred Whiteman.

“In this case, I know better. But we also checked the website, which was just registered in August," he said. “The Canadian BBB said there is no such attorney in Canada.”

The document stated the attorney would help Hutchison recover unclaimed permanent life insurance from a deceased relative worth $10.6 million.

Hutchison said it just so happens he had a family member with the same name that was on the document.

“I had an uncle named Robert Hutchinson who dropped out of the family about 15 years ago,” he said. “Nobody heard from him for years. We presume that he is deceased but boy, just that name might have hooked me if I didn't know better.”

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property, there are billions of dollars available and there are many businesses called “finders” or “locators” who find legitimate property for people, but Hutchison warned people should be very careful.

“There is legitimately unclaimed property being held by states – a total of about $42 billion. ... That’s generally bank accounts, life insurance policies, dividend checks,” he said. “The financial institution, for whatever reason, has lost track of the owner. Perhaps they died or moved without a forwarding address. So crooks take advantage that there really is such money out there.”

If think you may have unclaimed money or property waiting for you, you can check online through free websites and state databases.

Simply go to and type in your name to do a database search of available unclaimed funds across all states. (Note: Not every state participates.)

“If you get a letter like this and you’re asked to pay an upfront fee – don’t do it,” Hutchison warned.

According to the BBB, companies or businesses who help reclaim property do not charge an upfront fee or flat rate. They will charge you a fee after you get your money.