SIKESTON -- William and Claudia Walkenbach of Hermann may have won half of the $261.3 million Powerball jackpot last week, but there's still a chance for other Missourians to come into some quick and easy cash.
How? By visiting the unclaimed property section of the Office of Missouri State Treasurer Web site.
Since 1985, the state treasurer's office has been holding unclaimed property of residents residing in Missouri or of those who once resided in the state.
Currently, $220 million is still unclaimed by nearly 1.9 million people statewide, according to Don Kling, communications director of the state treasurer's office.
"The majority of the unclaimed property is because people have moved and they forget to close a bank account," Kling said. "Or people have died and left property for people, but their heirs don't know about it."
A total of 13,437 people in the four-county area of Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott and Stoddard, are entitled to $685,791, Kling said.
"We're constantly getting property that belongs to cities, counties or businesses such as political properties, hospitals, banks and schools," Kling noted.
But, Kling said, just because these properties are unclaimed doesn't mean the state treasurer's office isn't aware of their owners.
"With those, we let it stack up because a lot of the time, they're payouts are only about $1 or $5. And rather than keep paying out individually, we'll pay them three or four times a year," Kling explained.
Kling said the office has staff whose job is to track down owners of the unclaimed property. Sometimes they find the owners, and other times they don't, which is why the state treasurer's office places annual ads and created an online unclaimed property tracking system, he said.
"If you're online and find you have unclaimed property, all you have to do is go to the holder report section and it tells you what to do from there," Kling explained.
Yearly ads are run by the state treasurer's office in one general-circulation newspaper in every county of the state. This year, the ads of unclaimed property reported in 2002 ran June 26 and July 3.
Kling emphasized the ads published this year only included unclaimed property for 2002. So some people could still have unclaimed assets prior to 2002 that are listed online, but not in the ad, he pointed out.
The average payout is $300, and it can range from a penny to millions of dollars, Kling said. The largest payout the office has made to one individual was $750,000.
"It was someone who inherited stock to a family pharmaceutical chain and that chain got bought out by a bigger chain. It turned out it was worth a lot," Kling explained.
Unclaimed property is considered abandoned after five years and the government holds land forever, Kling said. It never becomes property of the state, he added.
Meanwhile, Kling said it's sometimes difficult getting the public to believe the government actually wants to give them money.
"The toughest part is convincing people it's real and that the government is really trying to pay you your money," Kling said. "It's a hard sell, but it's a legitimate program and our services are free of charge."
Sikeston resident Ed Swinney knows the state treasurer's office is for real. He discovered the unclaimed property after watching TV.
"It was one of those entertainment shows," Swinney said. "It was just a little blip and it told about one of the movie stars who had unclaimed property. So I got the idea that maybe I had some."
Swinney researched a little and found the Office of Missouri State Treasurer Web site. He got the regional phonebook out and started going through it, typing in names online.
As it turned out, Swinney didn't have any unclaimed property -- but many of his friends did.
"Almost everyone I entered had unclaimed property -- except me!" Swinney said, adding that he stopped after seeing over 100 names. "So I told the ones I knew."
Payouts of Swinney's acquaintances, one of which was his sister, ranged from 25 cents to $8.50, he said.
Last year $33 million of new unclaimed property was reported to the state treasurer's office, and $16.8 million was paid out, Kling said, adding it made 68,000 people very happy.
"You never know," Kling reminded. "We could owe you money. The easiest and simplest way is to go online. Just check."
Visit www.showmemoney.com to look up property holder identification or to access a holder report form.