Nearly a third of $1 billion belonging to Quebecers is sitting unclaimed at the provincial tax agency.

This information is publicly available — but only if you know where to look. 

Revenue Quebec keeps an online register of unclaimed property where Internet users may run their names through a search engine and find out if they are owed any money.

CBC informed four different people they have funds to collect over the course of this investigation.

Carson Rappell

Carson Rappell's family is owed more than $3,000 based on investments made by his late father. (CBC)

Carson Rappell of Pointe-Claire, Que., discovered his family has nearly $3,000 to claim based on investments made by his late father.

"I'm amazed, shocked actually," Rappell said when told of the news. "Revenue Quebec is very good at collecting money from people."

"Obviously they're not quite as efficient when it comes to distributing money that they're holding on behalf of people," he added.

Different sources

The cash may stem from a number of places: life insurance policies, a will, dues from a former employer, shares, etc. 

Provincial law requires private organizations to search for the person the money belongs to for three years. Afterwards, the amount is sent to Revenue Quebec.

CBC told Rhea Westover she is owed more than $550. The sum is based on shares her mother had bought in Westover's name when she was a baby. 

"When [my mother] moved, she lost the paperwork that said we had all these stocks, and thought it was gone forever. So it's great that it exists," Westover said.

Meanwhile, Peter Prupas found out his family is due close to $900 based on a life insurance policy taken out by his mother, Paulie Prupas.

That policy wound up with the Empire Life Insurance Company.

And Empire, unable to locate Prupas, transferred it to the government.

Unclaimed money goes to government

Empire's vice-president of retail operations, Steven Biringer, told CBC he could not discuss individual cases, but said the company generally does all it can to find people before handing over the goods to the province. 

"If we get, for example, returned mail, we would try following up with phone calls," he said. "If that is not successful, there are options available to us as well, particularly with the Internet today, things like Canada 411, as well as Google searches."

Revenue Quebec holds onto amounts less than $500 for 10 years before they are sent to the province's Generations Fund, aimed at reducing public debt.

Watch the video up top to learn how to navigate Revenue Quebec's registry.

Anyone who has a larger sum to claim may take longer to do so.

But the provincial tax agency also subtracts fees and taxes from the cash, and some of those fees increase every year.

Spokesperson Stéphane Dion said the agency also tries to find people. 

Dion said Revenue Quebec's primary methods of sharing information with the public are its online register and notices it publishes in newspapers.

Though unable to delve into specifics, Dion also said the agency may try other types of searches based on the amount of money owed.

"We'll try to trace them, try to call them or send them information by letter. It's sure that it's impossible to call all the right-holders, because there's a lot," he said. 

The people we reached said Quebec's efforts to find them fell short.

"It probably wouldn't be that hard to track me down, as in, you tracked me down," Westover told CBC. "So you'd think that the Quebec government would be able [to do it, too]."

As for Prupas and Rappell, both pointed out they have uncommon last names, are listed in the phone book, and have not moved in decades.

"It doesn't take much for somebody to look up my name or Google my name online, and find my address," Prupas said. 

Hard to find

Revenue Quebec said it encourages everyone to go onto its website and look up their names.

"So that's a lot of money, and a little research. Just two minutes could be really profitable for the right-holder," said Dion.

The individual website for the online register has a long URL address and may be difficult to find.

Look at our web video on this page for a quick guide on how to navigate it.