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Consumer protection of county unclaimed funds

Thursday, 18 September 2014
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Fiscal Officer Kristen M. Scalise CPA, CFE puts Summit County in lead for consumer protection of county unclaimed funds

Summit County Fiscal Officer Kristen M. Scalise CPA, CFE is pleased to announce recent changes to the county charter to regulate agreements, remuneration, and recovery of unclaimed funds at the county level. These changes will better protect consumers from scams and predatory third parties, as well as ensure monies are returned directly to their rightful owner. Summit County is the first county in the state of Ohio to adopt strict regulations to benefit the owners of county unclaimed funds.

Fiscal Officer Scalise serves as trustee of unclaimed funds in Summit County and is tasked with processing claims and returning money to owners. Unclaimed funds are monies accumulated and owed from transactions performed at county agencies. Examples of transactions include overpayments, fees and costs, lost heir accounts, and sheriff sale proceeds. Summit County currently has $1.3 million in unclaimed funds cash balances.

Enactment of new Chapter 756 of the Codified Ordinances of the County of Summit will impose express requirements and restrictions set forth under Section 169.13 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Owners of unclaimed funds can submit a claim without the service of a paid professional finder; however, paid professional finders are permitted by law to seek out owners and negotiate a fee for their service. To provide adequate time for owners to find their own unclaimed funds and submit their own claim, paid professional finders must now wait two years before contacting or entering into a valid agreement with an owner. They are also required to hold a valid certificate of registration issued by the Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce and provide a copy when filing claims.

If an owner chooses to enlist the services of a finder, a valid contract must be submitted to the Fiscal Office for approval prior to the release of funds. New restrictions require the contract to state the nature and value of the unclaimed funds, the amount the owner will receive after the fee or compensation has been subtracted, and a statement that the unclaimed funds will be paid directly to the owner. The finder’s fee cannot be in excess of ten per cent of the amount recovered and paid to the owner. Agreements may not include a power of attorney for the payment to any person other than the owner.

If the Fiscal Office determines that the finder’s agreement fails to comply with Sections 756.03-756.05 of the Codified Ordinances, a complaint will be filed with the County of Summit Department of Consumer Affairs and related parties may be subject to a penalty of up to five hundred dollars.

Fiscal Officer Scalise would like to remind citizens that they can file their own claim, without the assistance of a paid professional finder. “I encourage citizens to file their own claims. It’s a simple process and my staff is available to assist with any questions about the application,” Scalise said. “But if you choose to use a professional finder, I am proud to enforce the strictest regulations in the state to protect you and your recovered funds.”

The Fiscal Office will mail letters this week to over six hundred owners of county unclaimed funds. Many citizens and businesses are not aware they have unclaimed funds. To recover unclaimed fund money, the owner must complete an unclaimed funds application, in its entirety, and submit it to the Fiscal Office. The application takes less than 90 days to process.

County unclaimed fund amounts of $10 or more are listed in a searchable database online. Visit our “Unclaimed Funds”, then enter your last name or business name in the search box and wait for the results to appear. Do not press the return button after you enter your name.

To assist owners with finding unclaimed funds and submitting a claim, the Fiscal Office will host outreach tables at participating Acme Fresh Market Stores. A valid unclaimed funds claim must typically be signed by the owner and notarized. Applications submitted at our outreach tables will not require a notary, unless the amount exceeds $1,000. Citizens can visit us at the following locations between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.: