New Yorkers Can Really Win Something at the Fair This Summer

I used to love going to the fair as a kid. In the boondocks of upstate New York, the fair was a wonderful big mess of commerce, risk, and excitement. The rides were okay, but it was the games that got your blood going: a chance to win a big beer goblet (even though we were too young to drink beer) or a wall-eyed stuffed animal or something else equally great.

In retrospect, the winnings were pretty paltry. Mostly you came away with sunburn, a stomach ache from all the fried dough, and thoroughly empty pockets.

This summer, however, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has turned the upstate fairs into a potential bonanza. Here’s what a press release from his office has to say:

New Yorkers can find out if they are owed some of the state’s $9 billion in unclaimed funds at events across the state in August …

“New York has $9 billion in unclaimed fund accounts. We want to return this money to its rightful owners,” DiNapoli said. “The money belongs to New Yorkers. We want to give it back.” Representatives from DiNapoli’s office will be on site at the events listed below to help New Yorkers find out if they are owed money. New Yorkers and others may also check for unclaimed funds at www.osc.state.ny.us or by calling toll free at 1-800-221-9311.

The fairs are listed below. My first thought is that this is an easy publicity stunt for DiNapoli, who is not shy about making his accomplishments known. And if you can already check for unclaimed funds on a web site or by phone, why go to the trouble of staking out a fair?

But the more I thought about it, the more the fair seemed like a great place to give people back their money. It’s a huge and fairly captive audience, probably cheaper than standard advertising, and, since just about every other booth at the fair is looking to take your money, the DiNapoli operation should stand out nicely.

It will be interesting to see the results. It would be even more interesting if in fact the fair operation was in part a criminal sting hoping to use the incentive of greed to round up some bad guys who should be in jail.

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Jessica

You think Syracuse is boondocks? Surely you have not been to the Empire Farm Days. THAT is boondocks! And surely you did not have the "pleasure" of growing up in a small town where a 45 minute drive to Syracuse was an exciting trip to the big city!

Ellen

Actually, the NYS Fair possibly has criminals running it... or at least, the criminally wasteful and stupid. See the Syracuse Post-standard's recent investigation of questionable music booking practices by the Spitzer-appointed director, Dan O'Hara.

O'Hara is also the guy who personally removed from display a blue-ribbon-winning photograph from the Fair's art show. The photo was of a blow-up doll smoking a cigarette. O'Hara removed it not because of the sex implication, but because the doll was smoking a cigarette.

I wish the NYT would look into this guy further. (DiNapoli is now...) He is extremely unpopular in Syracuse and many feel he is running the Fair into the ground. The Fair needs improvements, but O'Hara is just running it like his personal fiefdom. Why hasn't he been canned along with the rest of the Spitzer appointees?

Travis Ormsby

Good luck getting your money.

I used to work in the unclaimed property section of a large bank, where we were responsible for turning over unclaimed bond payments to the states.

Claimants whose money had been escheated to the stated of NY had a harder time than people from any other state getting their money back. Maybe things have changed in the past 3 years, but NY has historically made it very difficult for people to get the money that's due to them.

Champthom

Actually, that is how my mom got about $300 from an old utility bill she overpaid years ago. She went to the booth at the Great New York State Fair, they looked up her name and her old address, and low and behold they had $300 for her.

About a few weeks later, she got a check.

So yeah, it is totally legitimate.

Lewis

Maybe DiNapoli hopes everyone will spend all their money on the fair?

DJH

I've heard of police, bounty hunters, etc. using the ruse of telling people they had some sort of unclaimed funds ... a contest prize, or state-treasury money like the article describes ... to lure people out of hiding and into some contained situation so as to nab them.

So it wouldn't surprise me if they were doing this.

On the other hand, we're talking about different wings of government -- the comptroller's office is not law enforcement. And we know that government agencies tend to prize their independence. So perhaps this sort of thing is a little too much to expect of bureaucrats.

Craig

At the Iowa state fair in the mid 90's, the police offered to let you check to see if you had any outstanding warrants for your arrest. Of course, they announced that if they found some, that you would be arrested. Many people checked. Several were arrested!

David G.

Cool. I left NY State after college 11 years ago but I followed the link and I'm owed money!! Thanks.

Mike

Well, I just clicked on the link and found a hit for my name. The source is my old employer for my summer job during college. Awesome! No need to go to the fair!

Bill Harshaw

And since when is Syracuse, NY the "boondocks"?

RUBBA

I spent two years trying to claim funds in a great grandfather's name to no avail despite having a unique last name. Imagine the difficulties in getting death certificates, marriage licenses from the early 1900's to prove you're related. I received nothing from our former Comptroller but rejection.

It may be easier to toss a ring on a glass bottle. Besides, who do they think is going to be walking around a fair carrying these things?