FAQs for Online Claims
Filing a Claim
1. What’s the difference between a claim and a petition?
A person who files a claim is contesting the seizure and is requesting to pursue the matter in court. The claimant believes the asset was not part of an illegal activity and was not purchased through ill-gotten gains.
A person who files a petition is not contesting the forfeiture. The petitioner either wants his/her interest in the asset to be recognized or is a victim of the crime underlying the forfeiture. If the asset is forfeited to the government, the petitioner wants to be compensated for his/her interest.
2. How do I begin the process for filing a claim?
The www.forfeiture.gov website provides all the information you need to get started. To file a claim, you must describe the seized property, identify your interest in the seized property, and swear under oath to those facts. You may file a claim by mail or online. The Claims page will provide more information about these filing options. Be sure to view the Online Claim Help Video, if you choose to file online.
3. What are the deadlines for filing a claim?
If you have received a notice letter from the federal agency, the claim deadline date will be shown in the Time Limits paragraph of that letter. If you did not receive a notice letter, the Public Notices of Forfeiture found on www.forfeiture.gov will identify the "Last Date to File". Be sure to look at the "Last Date to File" on the same page that your asset is listed.
4. What forms are required to file a claim and where can I find them?
There is no required form to file a claim. You can file the claim in any format you choose. However, two convenient options are available for filing a claim: 1) filing online or 2) filing by mail using a standard claim form.
If you choose to file online, the online application will guide you through all the requirements using an online form. Be sure to view the Online Claim Help Video.
If you choose to file by mail, a standard paper form and its instructions can be found on the Claims page. This standard form covers every requirement for filing a claim and may be printed, filled out, and mailed to the appropriate seizing agency.
5. What supporting evidence is required to prove my interest in the asset?
Supporting evidence is not required to file a claim, however you may submit documentation to substantiate your claim. Documents that identify your interest in the property may include title paperwork, bank records, receipts, etc. If you do not include any supporting evidence when filing your claim, it may be requested from you at a later date.
6. What are the guidelines for uploading supporting documentation?
The list of guidelines for uploading supporting documentation can be found on the Claims page.
7. How do I upload supporting documentation when my attachment is not an acceptable file type?
The online filing application only accepts certain file types. If your attachment is not one of the acceptable file types, then it is recommended you convert your attachment to another file type. To do so, open your attachment on your local machine and perform a 'Save As'. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your attachment as one of the acceptable file types. The following file types are acceptable: PDF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, JPEG, JPG, GIF, BMP, TIFF, TIF, PNG.
If your attachment cannot be converted into an acceptable file type, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
8. What if I have more supporting documents than I am allowed to attach?
Users may attach up to 150 supporting documents to each filing. This does not include the Sworn Notice of Representation or the Signed Copy of your Claim that an attorney filing on behalf of their client must attach. If you have more attachments than that, please combine your attachments where possible to get the total number under the limit (For example: multiple images may be saved in a single file).
If your attachment cannot be combined, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
9. My supporting document is too large to attach. What can I do?
Users may attach files up to 10 MB in size. If you need to attach a file that exceeds the maximum file size, try to split your attachment into separate smaller files. For example, if a 15 MB attachment is too large, try cutting and pasting half of the information into a new file.
If you are unable to decrease the size of your attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
10. What if the image I want to attach is larger than the allowed dimensions?
Users may attach image files with dimensions of up to 11000 x 11000 pixels. If any of your images are rejected for exceeding the size requirements, you will need to resize your image to be smaller before attempting to attach it again. Most photo editing software, such as Paint in Windows or Paintbrush in Mac OS, offers a simple "Resize" feature.
If you are unable to decrease the size of your image attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
11. My attachment failed the PDF conversion/merge check. What should I do?
All PDF attachments must pass a PDF conversion and merge validation process to verify that your attachment can be saved into the single PDF document of the completed filing. If your attachment fails the PDF conversion/merge test, it is likely that your attachment is comprised of a non-standard PDF version. There are a few possible solutions to resolving this issue. One is to convert your attachment to another file type. To do so, open your attachment on your local machine and perform a 'Save As' function if possible. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your attachment as one of the valid image types. Another is to paste a snapshot of your PDF into a Word processor and save it as a Word or PDF file.
If your attachment continues to fail this check, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
12. My image attachment failed the compression/conversion check. What should I do?
All image attachments must pass a PDF conversion and compression validation process to verify that your attachment can be saved into the single PDF document of the completed filing. If your image attachment fails the compression/conversion test, it is likely that your attachment is using incompatible encoding. There are a few possible solutions to resolving this issue. One is to convert your attachment to another image type. To do so, open your image on your local machine and perform a 'Save As' function if possible. When you select 'Save As', a new window will display with a 'Save as Type' dropdown, in which you may save your image as one of the valid image types. Another is to paste your image into a Word processor and save it as a Word or PDF file.
If your attachment continues to fail this check, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
13. What if my attachment fails the virus scanner?
All attachments must successfully pass a virus scan before being saved. If your attachment cannot pass the virus scanner, then it cannot be uploaded. To identify and remove any viruses or malware from a file, it is recommended to use a virus scanning tool on your local machine.
If you are unable to remove the virus from your attachment, then you may mail it individually, or along with your entire filing, to the agency directly.
14. Do I need an attorney to file a claim?
No, you do not need an attorney to file a claim. However, you have the option to hire legal counsel to represent you in both filing the claim and if the claim goes to court. Legal counsel will have the ability to file a claim on your behalf either online or by mail. However, you will need to sign the claim before legal counsel can file it.
15. Can I file a claim for more than one asset at a time?
Yes, you may file a claim for multiple assets at one time.
If filing online, you may file one claim and include multiple assets from multiple federal agencies. The system will automatically direct your claim to the appropriate agencies.
If filing by mail, you may identify multiple assets on your claim, but all assets must have been seized by the same federal agency. If you are claiming assets seized by multiple federal agencies, then you will have to file a separate claim to each agency for assets seized only by that agency.
16. How do I file my claim by mail?
To file your claim by mail, you must state your interest in the asset(s) and you may provide copies of documents that support your claim. You can also print your online claim form and mail it to the appropriate federal agency.
Claims filed by mail should be sent to the agency that sent you the notice letter or the agency that is identified on the public notice for the asset you are claiming. Addresses for each agency are listed on the Claims page.
17. I want to file a claim using the online process. How do I start?
From the www.forfeiture.gov website, click on the Claims page and then click on File Your Claim Online. You will need to enter your email address so the system can send you a tracking number. This tracking number will be used throughout the lifecycle of your online claim. Once the tracking number is entered, you can start entering the required information. Keep your tracking number in a safe place. Be sure to view the Online Claim Help Video.
18. How do I find my assets when filing online?
Once you start the online process to file a claim, you will be directed to a Search page so you can identify assets. The following search options are available:
- Asset ID
- Notice Letter ID – Unique identifier for each notice letter sent that is printed in the "seized asset information table" on the notice letter you received.
- Court Case Number – wildcard search is available
- Judicial District
- Asset Type
- Seizing Agency
- Seizure Address – wildcard search is available
- Seizure City – wildcard search is available
- Seizure State
- Seizure Date
If your asset is retrieved using the search, then you can include that asset in your claim. If the asset is not retrieved, then your asset is no longer available for online filing.
19. Why is my asset not available online?
There are a variety of reasons why an asset may no longer be available. These include, but are not limited to:
- The deadline to file a claim for all interested parties has passed for this asset.
- The asset was returned to the owner.
- The federal agency has decided not to forfeit this asset.
However, you may still file a claim for that asset by mail. You must submit all required information to the appropriate seizing agency. Addresses for each agency are listed on the Claims page.
20. What if I do not know the answer to some of the questions on the online claim and/or need more than one session to complete my online claim?
Your work can be saved while you research any information required of you during the claim process. However, you only have 30 days to file your claim online. You will not be allowed to submit your claim online if any required information is not entered.
However, this 30-day window to file a claim online does not take into account your claim deadline date. While the online system gives all users 30 days to file online, you still must file your claim by the claim deadline date. Please see question 3 above for more information.
21. How do I resume filing my online claim?
If you started your online claim within the past 30 days, click on the "Claims" link at the top right hand corner of the Home Page and then click on "File Your Claim Online". At the bottom of the screen, you can select "Resume Claim". You will be asked to enter your tracking number from the original submission. Follow the directions on the screen to continue your claim. Please note that if you started your claim more than 30 days ago, you will have to start the claim process over and you must still file your claim by the deadline date.
22. Can I file a claim online if I am the legal guardian of or have power of attorney for the claimant?
Yes, you may file an online claim if you are the legal guardian of or have power of attorney for the claimant. When filing, you will be asked if the claimant has an attorney representing them for this claim. Unless there is an outside attorney hired to represent the claimant, please select "No" for this question. Being a legal guardian of or having power of attorney for the claimant does not mean you are the attorney representing them for this claim.
23. Does filing a claim online ensure that it is valid and timely?
Filing a claim online does not make it valid or timely. Claims will be reviewed for validity and timeliness by the seizing agency’s legal staff. To help with the processing of your claim, please make sure to include all necessary information and all available supporting documentation.
24. What if I have technical problems when using the online filing option?
You may contact the Forfeiture Systems Help Desk for technical assistance at AFMS.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Forfeiture Systems Help Desk will not be able to answer any legal questions or provide assistance on the content of your claim.
After a Claim is Filed
1. Can I revise my claim after I have filed it online?
If you need to make any changes to your filed claim, you must send an amendment to the appropriate federal agency via U.S. mail or commercial carrier. Make sure to include the following when submitting an amendment:
- Your full name
- Your online tracking number
- The relevant asset ID(s)
- Your signature
The address for each agency can be found on the Claims page.
2. How do I track the progress of my claim? Who can I call for updates?
The appropriate federal agency will contact you about your claim by U.S. mail or commercial carrier to let you know about the validity and/or timeliness of your claim and the necessary next steps.
You may contact the appropriate agency for more information.
3. Who reviews claims?
Claims are reviewed for validity and timeliness by the seizing agency’s legal staff. Valid and timely claims are then referred to the United States Attorney’s Office. The United States Attorney’s Office will decide either to pursue the case in court or to direct the seizing agency to return the seized asset(s).
4. What happens if I file a false claim?
If a court finds that a claimant's assertion of an interest in property was frivolous, the court may impose a civil fine. See Title 18 United States Code, Subsection 983(h). A false statement or claim may subject a person to criminal prosecution under Title 18 United States Code, Sections 1001 and 1621.