Smart Money

DEAR BRUCE: My parents bought $400 in Oppenheimer mutual funds in 1965 while Dad was in the Air Force. Soon after that they were transferred to Italy and the paperwork was lost.

Fast forward 50 years: I found the funds in unclaimed property with the New York State Comptroller's Office. I got all the forms and sent them to my parents (they don't do the internet). They filled out the forms, waited about five months and then got a check for $400 only.

Is it possible that mutual funds stay the same for over 50 years? I would think there would have been some growth, especially with Oppenheimer. I think some party conspired to take the money, thinking my parents would not be the wiser. Where do I go from here? -- R.P.

DEAR R.P.: I have some bad news for you. While the unclaimed property offices in almost every state will refund money no matter how many years have passed, as long as you can show it's yours, no interest is collected on your behalf.

In 50 years, there would have been a lot of interest due, but that's beside the point. The fact that your dad lost the paperwork carried a severe penalty, and the fact that you didn't make the claim for a good many years after that increases the penalty. You got the principal back, which is all you're entitled to.

DEAR BRUCE: Following the recent hack of Equifax files, national news outlets highly recommended that everyone freeze their credit report. What is your opinion of doing this, and if you agree, how does one go about accomplishing this? Also, what happens if you want to apply for credit after your credit report is frozen? We are very confused as to what to do next, if anything. -- D.L.

DEAR D.L.: You have every right to be confused. Yes, Equifax recommended that people freeze their credit reports for a small fee, but try to get them on the telephone! It's an impossible task. My wife has been trying for a good many days to get through and she hasn't succeeded. You might have better luck doing it online.

As to what happens if you want credit after your credit report is frozen, you'll need to contact the credit agency and it will release your report completely or only for the persons you mention. It's a confusing proposition, and the only way they're going to straighten it out is to throw a heck of a lot more money into the problem.

(Send questions to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

(The Bruce Williams Radio Show can now be heard 24/7 via iTunes and at www.taeradio.com. It is also available at www.brucewilliams.com.)

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