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Wouldn’t it be nice if we suddenly found enough cash on the sidewalk to pay our expenses or pay off a bill? Chances are, you won’t find enough pennies on the ground, but if you look elsewhere you may find some cash you didn’t think you had.

While the government does a good job of taking our money, it also is fair enough to offer to give some back. Two ways are available online to search for any cash you may be owed.

First, if you, your parents or grandparents ever invested in U.S. savings bonds, those bonds may have gotten lost or destroyed and no one knows the cash value is sitting unclaimed. Series E savings bonds issued between 1941 and 1979 are now worth a minimum of four times their face value. Plus, they are no longer collecting interest, which means they’re prime for withdrawal. If the bonds were issued in 1974 or later, all one needs is a Social Security number of the purchaser to try to find a bond.

Start at http://www.treasuryhunt.gov/ and enter the Social Security number of a relative, or yourself, to see if an old bond is waiting to be redeemed. This website is run by the U.S. Treasury Department. If a bond is found and it is of a deceased relative, the heir can contact the Treasury Department and file a form to claim it.

The downside of claiming the bond is whoever does so will have to pay the tax in the accrued interest.

For individuals who own active bonds still accumulating interest, it would be wise to indicate somewhere in personal files that they exist so heirs know to claim them.

Another way to find government money is to visit http://www.IRS.gov/. Each year, millions of tax refunds go unclaimed either because the check is returned undeliverable or the taxpayer did not file a return to claim the refund. Any refunds due can be discovered using the “Where’s My Refund” feature on the IRS website. Using this site is also advisable to search for any relatives due a refund, such as elderly parents or children who may not have filed taxes because of low earnings.

States also print or make available on their websites ways to find unclaimed state income-tax refunds.

Taking a few minutes to search for lost money won’t save your budget, but any found money these days can go a long way.

(C) 2010 McClatchy-Tribune News Service. All Rights Reserved.