BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's unclaimed property program is free and state Treasurer John Kennedy says residents should beware of an email scam that directs recipients to pay a fee in order to make a claim.

Kennedy said the scam surfaces every few years.

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, taxpayers nationwide are receiving emails appearing to originate from a regional auditor of the association. The email claims the recipient has inherited a large amount of money and promises further details upon receipt of personal information. Kennedy said NAUPA does not contact individuals directly.

"Identity thieves use fraudulent emails like this one to steal personal information or trick an unsuspecting victim into sending in money to process an Unclaimed Property claim. Louisiana citizens never have to pay to search for and locate Unclaimed Property," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said so-called finders who search for unclaimed property for a fee do not have access to information that an individual can't find for him or herself for free through the department's website of toll free hotline.

"When contacted by a 'finder,' an individual should contact our office before signing a contract," Kennedy said. "If the money is in our custody, we will be glad to get it back to you free of charge."

The state Treasury Department gets in new, lost money daily and has information on more than $500 million in unclaimed property belonging to Louisiana residents. Residents can visit the Treasury's official website at www.LATreasury.com or call 1-888-925-4127 to search for missing money Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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