Colin Rowland is a graphic artist, working on his latest project.
He always likes a little extra cash to help him put together his next gallery show. So whenever he's notified about a class-action settlement that he's eligible for, he jumps on it.
He recalled one from a couple of years ago.
"It was a postcard. It just said we could collect something for an insurance policy, where we were overpaying," Rowland said.
The few minutes he took resulted in almost $100 in insurance money refunded to him.
"We went to the website, we filled out the application and we received a check a few months later," he said.
Many people discard notices
Unfortunately, most of us have received postcards in the mail saying you qualify for cash back on some purchase, but we often throw it away. You may just think it's junk mail, or something requiring too much personal information.
"I probably did that," Jocelyn Washington said. "I toss a lot of mail."
But Washington said she's going to pay more attention now, after we told her about all the class-action cases just waiting to hand out money.
And it's easier than ever now to find cases you may qualify for.
How to find free money
That's because the non-profit group "Consumer Action" recently put together a Class-Action Database, listing hundreds of settlements that could net you anything from $3 in coupons all the way up to $5,000 cash.
"They get a bad rap, but in the end this is a mechanism that helps consumers and in the end benefits consumers," Linda Sherry of Consumer Action said.
Sherry said many people complain about the high fees attorneys often collect in these cases. And they sometimes do.
But she says class-action suits are worthwhile, because they hold companies' feet to the fire when they don't deliver what they promise.
Current hot settlements
Among the current hot cases on her group's website that you can still join:
Wells Fargo unsolicited home mortgage calls: If you received one of their automated calls, you could collect as much as $50, as part of a $16 million settlement for violating robocalling rules.
You can also check another website called TopClassActions.com, set up by an attorneys association, which often lists additional settlements.
One caution: When applying for these settlements, be careful giving out your Social Security Number. Those should be required only if the case involves a bank or a credit bureau, and even then you should be leery of sharing it.
That way, you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.