Repo company charging to return belongings left in vehicle

May 24, 2011 19:44 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Can a vehicle recovery (repo) company hold the contents of the vehicle “hostage” for money? The finance company pays them to recover, so why should the company be allowed to take advantage of a consumer who has already suffered the blow of losing his car? Is this legal?

Consumer Ed says:

Repossession companies who have lawfully repossessed your vehicle are permitted to charge a fee for the return of any personal property of yours found in the vehicle.  This fee is intended to compensate the company for the reasonable expenses incurred in storing your belongings or in notifying you of the company’s intent to dispose of these items.

Georgia law requires that the company notify you within 10 days of the repossession that it has your belongings and intends to dispose of them.  You then have 30 days to respond and retrieve your property by collecting it and paying any reasonable storage or notification charges.   If you do not respond, a second notice is sent and the company is given another 30 days before it may dispose of your property.

Any fee you are charged to claim your property must be reasonable.  While the law does not specify an allowable amount for such charges, if you believe that the company is demanding an unreasonably high fee or has disposed of your property without notice, you can consult with an attorney regarding your rights to a reduced fee or compensation.

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Received notice about unclaimed money

November 4, 2010 08:39 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I just received an “Unclaimed Property Due Diligence Notification” letter. According to the letter, five years ago some company supposedly issued me a $72.00 check that I never claimed. In order to get the money, I have to send them either a copy of my driver’s license, social security card or utility bill. I would like to collect my money, but I’m nervous about sending out personal information like this. Is this letter legitimate or is someone trying to steal my identity?

Consumer Ed says:

The letter could be real, but even if it is, you are right to be concerned about sending your personal information. “Unclaimed property” is money that you are owed but which you never received. It may include checks, deposits, refunds or benefits that are uncashed or uncollected by the owner for a number of years. Under Georgia law, money that is not claimed by the owner for five years must then be turned over to the State. However, before that happens, the business that is holding the money is required to make one last effort to notify the owner that the money is there. Businesses often hire third party companies to send out the notification, so you may have received a legitimate notice that you are owed money.

A legitimate business will generally ask you to provide some information to verify your identity such as the last four digits of your social security number. However, you should not have to provide your entire social security number, driver’s license number or utility account number to a company in order to claim your property.That could be a sign of a scam. Always screen a company you are going to do business with through the Better Business Bureau or by contacting the financial institution that allegedly hired the servicing company. You may also want to look them up on the Internet and contact the Department of Revenue to see if they have ever heard of the company.  If your research indicates that the company is reputable, contact them and explain that you are not comfortable providing the personal information they are asking for.  Offer to provide the last four digits of your social security number instead.

If you suspect the company may not be legitimate, you can simply ignore the notice you received. If the business is actually holding unclaimed property for you, it will be required to turn it over to the Department of Revenue by the date specified on the notice. Then, as a current or former Georgia resident, you can easily find out whether you have any unclaimed property by using the database search tool on the Georgia Department of Revenue’s website: www.dor.ga.gov. There is no fee involved with collecting unclaimed property from the Department of Revenue.  Consumers needing assistance can contact the Department of Revenue’s customer service line by calling 404-968-0490 or sending an email to ucpmail@dor.ga.gov.

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