Comptroller William Donald Schaefer will have to pony up some extra
cash to correct an error in a Wild West themed advertisement that
accidentally sent cash-hungry cowpokes to a New Jersey couple's
On Monday, the Comptroller's Office began running an eight-page ad --
reminiscent of a reward poster featuring the flamboyant former governor
as a cowboy -- in 49 newspapers across Maryland. It was designed to
help locate 8,061 owners of unclaimed funds worth more than $5 million.
But two numbers were transposed in the toll-free phone number listed in
As a result, callers dialed up the unsuspecting New Jersey couple, said
Christine Duray, a spokesman for Mr. Schaefer.
After their phone started ringing at 6 a.m. Monday, the couple called
Maryland officials to complain.
State officials pulled the ad after it appeared in the first three newspapers.
A corrected version will begin running in a couple of weeks, Ms. Duray
"We didn't want inaccurate information out there," she said.
The Comptroller's Office will spend about $51,000 to reprint the
supplement, as well as an undetermined amount to reimburse the couple
for their calls, Ms. Duray said. Typically, the holder of an 800-number
pays for all calls received.
The couple, who declined to give their names, said this was not the first
time they have received calls destined for the Comptroller's Office.
Typically, people misdial the 800-number when the ads appear twice a
"They've really gone out of their way to correct the problem," a woman
the couple's home said.
By law, financial institutions, utilities, insurance companies and other
corporations are required to report to the Comptroller's Office any bank
accounts, security deposits, wages, insurance benefits and contents of
safe deposit boxes that have been unclaimed after five years.
The funds are turned over to the state if not claimed, but they remain
property of the owners and their heirs. The money can be claimed any
Last spring, the comptroller's campaign generated about 3,000 calls. About
1,200 people claimed more than $607,000.
The corrected ad will run in The Capital on Nov. 7 and in the Maryland
Gazette on Nov. 14.
The correct number for information about unclaimed funds is
800-782-7383 or 410-767-1700 in Central Maryland. Marylanders also can
check the list of names on the Web at www.marylandtaxes.com or at
Published October 17, 2001, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2001 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.