When someone tells you that you're owed a big chunk of money and all you need to do is "claim" it, you're being scammed... Unless that someone is the New York State Comptroller's Office, which each year collects hundreds of millions of dollars in funds that New Yorkers are owed from old bank accounts, utility security deposits, stock holdings, and a range of other places, but that they do not know exist.

If you type your name into this database on the Office of The New York State Comptroller's website, and we promise this is not a joke, you can see if there are unclaimed funds you are owed. If there are, the filing process for retrieving the funds is generally simple, and the state will send you a check. Last year, the comptroller's office disbursed $452 million dollars worth of unclaimed funds.

I did this two years ago and discovered that the comptroller had collected $425 of money that was apparently mine. I filed a claim and pretty soon after, got a check for $425 in the mail.

Recently, I looked up a few friends and found one of them in the database. He applied and he just got his check for $270. He promised to buy me a drink, although I'm thinking maybe he could at least take me out for tacos or something. That's four months of cell phone bills.

Most people haven't heard of this program and it sounds too good to be true, but somehow it is not. There's more than $14 billion of unclaimed funds out there, so take the time to look yourself up. It's absolutely worth it.

And if you're truly a good friend or a filial son or daughter, you can even look up your buddies or parents and let them know if they've got a little Christmas/non-denominational end-of-year bonus coming their way, courtesy of New York State.