Does the Government Have a Warrant on You?

Government debt and money owed to you

Do you have a warrant out for you from the government?

If you haven’t committed a crime, and you’re not an outlaw in the 1890s Wild West, then you probably assume the answer is “no.” But even law-abiding citizens who go out of their way to buy Girl Scout cookies and help poor old ladies across the street could have a warrant out for them as well!

Now, hold on. Before you put on a fake mustache and make a break for the border, you should know that this could actually be a good thing.

If the government owes you money, they’ll issue an IOU. That IOU is known as a “registered warrant,” which means that you don’t have a warrant out because you stole money, but because someone owes you money.

Confusing, huh? Here’s the deal.

If a state government owes you money, they sometimes promise to pay you back at a later date instead of paying you right now. This is done to keep crumbling state governments who are drowning in debt from digging a deeper debt hole. In 2009, when California was defaulting harder than the San Andreas, they started handing out these warrants like crazy. It was the only way to get them out of the state’s whopping $3 billion debt!

This leads to the big question: If the government can’t pay you now, when will you get your money? Not until the State Treasurer announces that the warrants are ready for redemption. Then you might have to wait up to a year, and if the state still doesn’t have the cash, the registered warrant will keep accruing interest and you’ll just have to keep waiting; though, in the end, the payout will be somewhat larger.

There is an upside to all this. Being able to hit a biker bar and tell everyone the government has a warrant out for you. We think you’ll totally score free beer!

Where to Find Unclaimed Money
In some cases, people don’t know the government owes them money and they don’t collect it. This is called unclaimed money, and it can apply to banks, credit unions, pensions, and other sources as well.

However, you need to beware of unclaimed money scams. As the USA.gov website says, “There are people who pretend to be the government and offer to send you unclaimed money for a fee. Government agencies will not call you about unclaimed money or assets. Learn how to spot these types of scams.”

The government does not have a single website where one can look themselves up by name, Social Security number, or state to see if there is money owed them. To find it, you have to visit each site separately and perform a search. Fortunately, USA.gov offers handy links to search for unclaimed money by:

  • State
  • Pensions from past employers
  • Tax refunds
  • Bank and credit union failures
  • SEC claims funds
  • FHA-Insurance refunds
  • Savings bonds
  • Foreign claims

Credit and Debt Resources
You may not have a traditional warrant out for you right now, but you could be in financial trouble and not know it. Get informed before trouble strikes. These sites off free help, and they take less than 3 minutes to become informed.

Credit Karma – This service helps people track their debt and finances by giving instant access to their credit score, providing free daily credit monitoring, and finding the best savings options for credit cards, mortgage, auto loans, and more.

Debt Relief CompaniesThese companies help people drowning in debt. They offer a free, no-obligation consultation that helps you evaluate your options, and can negotiate on your behalf with creditors to reduce your payments and get out of debt.

LifeLock Ultimate – Protects you against more insidious forms of identity theft, from financial to personal. It also monitors public databases for your personal information, scans online court records in case arrested criminals attempt to use your identity.

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