JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The state of Missouri could owe you money and you wouldn't even know it.
It's not a scam, but there is a catch involved.
You could think of it like the state's biggest lost and found. It's held in a secured area deep below Jefferson City.
Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick said a large part of their collection once lived in a safety deposit box that someone eventually stopped paying for.
"The staff sits in here, they go open up the contents, they inventory what we have and then it’s bagged and stored in bags and the safes," Fitzpatrick said.
Inside the vaults, everything from real treasurers like gold and silver to treasured memories and keepsakes.
"That was sent to someone from Raytown Missouri from Jacqueline Kennedy," says Fitzpatrick, as he shows us a condolence card addressed from the former First Lady shortly after her husband was assassinated in 1963.
In some cases, the stories behind some unclaimed items, you couldn't make up if you tried.
"Did we return the clown suit?" Fitzpatrick asked his staff. "One time they opened a safety deposit box with a change of clothes, ski mask and handgun in it."
While the origin of some of these belongings may consume the unclaimed property division's imagination, most of the unclaimed property is monitory.
We know what you're thinking: who wouldn't want a check with their name on it?
Usually it's not that simple.
"We get unclaimed life insurance proceeds if a life insurance company doesn’t know where to send the money. It could be gift cards that weren't redeemed. Really a variety of things," he said.
In all, Missouri has $1 billion worth of unclaimed property and that grows by $1 million every year.
With that much on their hands, they only have time to track down the big dollar recipients. Even that isn't always easy.
"Sometimes it’s just finding that person. It could be a situation where they moved and our last known address just isn’t where they are anymore," says Fitzpatrick.
The average claim is worth about $300, but we found several St. Louisans on the list that stood to receive a six-figure payday. Much like the state, we made dozens of phone calls. Most of them ended the same way, a line-disconnected message.
Then again, not everyone is so elusive.
Governor Mike Parson has $4 available.
"We’ll have to look at that. If we do, I’ll make a hand delivery of that check," Fitzpatrick said.
It's not just people.
Businesses, even nonprofits, have money waiting in the wings. One of the highest dollar amounts in our area belongs to St. Louis Public Schools.
According to state records, SLPS is owed at least $10,000, maybe even more.
The treasurer's office said they've reached out to SLPS several times. When we reached out to the district, they said they would look into it.
Unlike the items, the money doesn't just stay in the vault. The state actually spends millions of your money as they wait for claims.
"There’s more unclaimed property coming in each year than we are physically able to locate and pay out," Fitzpatrick said.
The state is literally banking on the fact they'll get more unclaimed property than they pay out. Even if there's a run on claims, Fitzpatrick promises you'll still get paid.
"The right to claim that property never goes away. It never becomes the state’s money. It’s always a liability to the state that we would have to pay out if someone claimed it," he said.
As for the safety deposit items, the state keeps it in the vault until somebody claims it or they run out of space.
Items that have value are sold at auction. If your heirloom is sold, the cash value can still be redeemed whenever you or your descendants file the claim.
So while it may live locked up below Jefferson City, Fitzpatrick said just ask and you shall receive.
"We’ll always uphold the commitment to returning it to the people it belongs to," says Fitzpatrick.
The process to file the claim is pretty simple.
Go to ShowMeMoney.com, type in your name or a relative's name and fill out the claim application.
If it's your name on the property, all you'll have to do is send some proof of identification. It gets more complicated if it's a next of kin who's already passed away.
For Illinois, you can go to icash.illinoistreasurer.gov and fill out the search fields.