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updated: 7/12/2012 3:19 PM

Are you 1 in 8 who deserves to get money back?

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  • As a mother of three who runs a jewelry business out of her Naperville home, Sharon Maguire says, "It was exciting to get extra money." She and her husband, Mike, logged onto the state's new I-Cash website and discovered $200 they didn't realize was theirs.

      As a mother of three who runs a jewelry business out of her Naperville home, Sharon Maguire says, "It was exciting to get extra money." She and her husband, Mike, logged onto the state's new I-Cash website and discovered $200 they didn't realize was theirs.
    Courtesy of state of Illinois

  • This billboard featuring Sharon Maguire of Naperville should start showing up in the suburbs soon. Maguire and her husband, Mike, went to icash.illinois.gov and got about $200 they didn't know existed.

      This billboard featuring Sharon Maguire of Naperville should start showing up in the suburbs soon. Maguire and her husband, Mike, went to icash.illinois.gov and got about $200 they didn't know existed.
    Courtesy of state of Illinois

 
 

That Nigerian prince didn't make good on his email promise to cut you in on the riches in return for helping him transfer a large sum of money. Then, you never got the payout from the foreign lottery you won without entering. Now, you're beginning to think the foreign bank manager who wants to give you the fortune left by some rich corpse in Belgium with your same surname might be a scam.

You are understandably leery of people online trying to give you money.

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But tens of thousands of you really do have money and other assets sitting out there unclaimed, and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford wants to make sure you get it. All you have to do is log onto icash.illinois.gov to see if any of that money or goodies belongs to you.

"I looked up my maiden name and was shocked to see three entries for my parents," says Connie DeLuca, a retired preschool teacher who lives in Glen Ellyn. Her parents died more than a dozen years ago, and the money owed them has been sitting around for more than a half-century, judging from the addresses listed on the accounts. The first address was for the apartment where her parents lived when she was born 63 years ago. The second address dated back to her childhood home in Elmhurst, where "we haven't lived in 50 years," she says. The last account was linked to her grandparents' home in Chicago where her father last lived as a bachelor.

The money, a little more than $6,000, was from old insurance policies her parents purchased from her grandfather, who worked as a Prudential salesman until his death in 1945, DeLuca says. She split the six grand with her sister in Arlington Heights. But she wasn't done with I-Cash.

"I was up until 1 o'clock in the morning on my computer," DeLuca says of the night her daughter told her about I-Cash. "I got out my address book and I was amazed. I found five of my neighbors and former co-workers at the preschool I worked at. I found a couple of my girlfriends. It was amazing to me when I went through the alphabet. Wow. It was like being on a treasure hunt."

The state's unclaimed property program recently added 780,000 names from records prior to 1992 and changed its name from Cash Dash to I-Cash. Unpaid wages, refunds, inactive bank accounts, money orders, items in abandoned safe deposit boxes and other assets must by law be turned over to the state, which publishes the rightful owners' names in newspaper ads twice a year. Last year, the treasurer's office returned $101,679,655 but still has $1.5 billion in cash and additional items from safe deposit boxes. The office says one in eight Illinois residents has an asset to be claimed through I-Cash.

Sharon Maguire of Naperville was tipped off about the program after her mother and fellow Naperville resident, Audrey Wierzbinski, saw her daughter's name in a newspaper ad. Maguire, 36, discovered she was owed more than $100 from an overpayment on a corporate credit card at her old job.

"I looked up my husband (Mike), and he happened to have cash as well," Maguire says. Her husband's old payment to a utility company during his single days brought the total to about $200 for the family.

"We knew it wasn't going to be a humongous payday, but it was enough to look legitimate. It was kind of fun to find out: Where could this money possibly be from?" says Maguire, a stay-at-home mother of three young children. "For us, it was just like extra cash. We've got kids, so it was exciting to get extra money. It just went into our checking account and paid for things like groceries."

Not only did she find that extra money, she's hoping her work helping to publicize the I-Cash program will pay additional dividends by allowing her to publicize her job as a stylist selling jewelry for the Stella & Dot company out of her home.

"My face," Maguire says, noting the state's photo of her features her wearing the jewelry she sells, "is going to be plastered all over billboards."

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