1. Check the Federal Government's Savings Bond Database
According to the United States Treasury, more than $17 billion worth of Series E Savings Bonds have never been redeemed. These bonds were sold between 1941 and 1980, marketed by the government as a safe and patriotic way to invest. Maybe you got one as a gift. (I know I did—the dreaded "Grandma got you a savings bond" gift.) Apparently, a lot of recipients simply forgot about them.
There are more than 55 million savings bonds that people own, so it's not that much of a stretch to imagine that at one point maybe you were given a savings bond that you forgot to cash. Well, let's go and find out. You can do this in minutes. First visit the Treasury Department's savings bonds website and navigate to a special page called Treasury Hunt®. Once you've reached the Treasury Hunt page, you'll find a big blue button two-thirds of the way down marked "Start Search." Click on it, type in your Social Security number, and you'll instantly be informed whether or not they are holding some bonds in your name!
If it turns out they are, you will need to fill out some forms to get your money back. Use form PDF 048 if your savings bonds were lost, stolen, or destroyed; form PDF 3062-4 if your bonds never got delivered. Both can be downloaded from the Treasury Hunt page. Again, it's all free, and it can lead to found money!
Next: Check the banks