Comptroller's office to pay $51,000 for
                              erroneous listings
                                             By SARA MARSH, Staff Writer

                                             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
                                             toll-free number.

                                             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
                                             the ad.

                                             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 at
                                             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 the
                                             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 or at


                                            Published October 17, 2001, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
                                             Copyright © 2001 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.