What do you do if your phone rings, and your caller ID informs you that it's your state's Department of Revenue calling?
If you're like many people who fear the lurking tax man, you let it go to voicemail. But if Frank Marshall is making the call, you might actually want to pick up the phone.
Marshall may have the coolest job at Washington state's Department of Revenue. He works as a locator in the unclaimed property section.
Part Santa Claus and part Sherlock Holmes, Marshall tracks people down in his ongoing quest to return unclaimed money or a sometimes eclectic mix of valuables that has included old coins and war medals, including a Purple Heart.
He's currently trying to track down the owner of a sketch book that's believed to be Pablo Picasso's, and that could be worth an estimated $350,000.
Marshall spends a lot of his time tracking people down on the phone, but some recipients don't make it easy.
"I get the people that hang up on me three or four times and think that I'm a prank caller or a solicitor," he said in an interview with "Good Morning America." "Yeah, a lot of times people think that, 'hey I don't have any money to give you,' and I go, 'excuse me, we're trying to give you money', and they're very confused by that. 'Department of Revenue wants to give away money?'"
State Has $830 Million in Unclaimed Assets
From safety deposit boxes left behind by those who have died, to unclaimed cash from old bank accounts, Washington state collected $90 million last year alone. And while the state does have a website where people can check for unclaimed cash on their own, that only scratches the surface.
"I'm a full-time locator," said Marshall, who sports an earring and drives a hot rod. "Since 2002, I've returned over $58 million to rightful owners. And there's no charge for anything we do. It's absolutely free."
All told, the state has $830 million in unclaimed assets -- items which are auctioned off every few years if they go unclaimed.
One of Marshall's recent investigations led him to Chienju Lin, who now lives in Taiwan. She was back in the U.S. on vacation just as he was tracking her down.
The two met up recently.
"Pleasure to meet you finally," Marshall told her. "I have something for you, though. I have proceeds for $6,047.41 from an old bank account that you used to have in Seattle … so I'd like to return this to you," he said, handing an envelope over to her.
"Thank you very much!" Lin replied.
Her uncle had taken Marshall's initial call, and like so many others, he was very skeptical at first.
"I thought it was a telemarketer running a scam," the man, Craig Kittelson, said with a laugh, adding that he "almost didn't take the call.
"I was within an inch of hanging up."
- Department of Revenue
- Department of Revenue