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Cook County Owes $79 Million In Unclaimed Property Tax Refunds; Do You Have Money Coming?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County might owe you thousands of dollars, and all it takes is an Internet connection to get it back.

The Cook County Treasurer's office says thousands of people are owed property tax refunds, and it's as simple as entering your address on the treasurer's website.

The Morning Insiders had no idea who Carol Adams was when we randomly chose her name off the list of taxpayers who are owed a refund.

She's' quite the established woman; a former secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, former CEO of the DuSable Museum, and a former administrator at the Chicago Housing Authority.

"I thought I was on top of everything. I wasn't expecting anything," she said.

Then a staffer from the Cook County Treasurer's office entered her information into their system at a recent 5th Ward meeting.

"Within 5 or 10 minutes, they said, 'Hey, you have money coming,'" she said.

The county owes her at least $910 for an overpayment on her 2002 property taxes.

"I was surprised at the outcome, but very happy about it," she said. "You may think you may have taken advantage of everything you have coming to you, and learn that you have not."

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas is very proud of the user-friendly updates to her property tax page.

You don't need your property's index number, just the address, to find out if you have an unclaimed refund.

Pappas said, often the reason is someone pays their property tax bill, and so does the bank holding their mortgage.

"It could be a husband paid and the wife paid. It could be a divorce, and they both paid," she said.

As many as 98,000 property owners will find similar mistakes. A whopping $79 million in refunds are unclaimed in Cook County.

Adams didn't realize she could recoup money from as far back as 20 years ago.

"I would encourage anyone who's ever paid property taxes in Illinois to fill the form out, and find out, because you never know," she said.

Tax lawyers can help you figure out if you're owed a refund, but will take a portion of your refund as their fee. Pappas said you should skip the attorneys and just use her website to check for yourself.

You can apply for the refund right away if you have one coming. Click here to search.

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