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June 17, 2010


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I certainly think location has a lot to do with it. My church did an "experiment" last year where they set $100 (in $1 denominations) on a table/floor in the church lobby and video taped people's reaction. There was no sign, no person at the table, and no previous announcement about this.

It was pretty funny what people and kids did. Some just looked, others picked-up the money on the floor and placed it on the table, some even went as far as to tidy up the table, and a few even placed money on it. Ultimately none was taken. That being said I wonder if the result would have been different had the same people come across it in the mall or on a street corner.

Personally if I found money I would certainly attempt to, if reasonably able to, find the owner and would agree that the larger the sum the more effort I'd put into finding them.

I know exactly what I would do if I found a $100 bill, because it happened to me on the sidewalk (a fairly busy sidewalk) outside an apartment I rented in Atlanta. I kept the money and made no effort to find the person who lost it.

On the other hand, I've found wallets more than once, and I returned them intact.

I found $87 in a plastic bag floating in the wave pool at Kalahari Resort. My 7 year old was with me and we went to the lifeguard station and turned it in saying we would come back that night and claim it ourselves if no one else did.

Of course that night no one at the station or the main desk had heard anything about cash being turned in - LOL! I imagine some young lifeguard or clerk had more need for that money than an older financially-established person like myself, so I wasn't upset. And it turned out to be a good life-lesson for my son. That having been said, here's how to handle the situation if it occurs to you:

1) Write your name and phone# on a note saying you found some cash.
2) Also write on the note that the owner can call you and claim their cash, but they will have to prove to your satisfaction that it is theirs (maybe by identifying the exact amount, bills, or location).
3) Leave the note with the manager of the business or the doorman of the apartment.
4) Wait 2 days. If you haven't gotten a call, it's yours. If you do get a legit call return the cash.

Oh and feel free to accept a little of the cash as a reward, or allow yourself to be treated to lunch! Why not? Who knows, you may meet your future spouse, best-friend, or employer this way!

Now that I'm married, my wife is very big into "what goes around, comes around" -- so if she were with me and we found a $100 bill...

I would imagine that we would spend $200-300 in advertisements trying to track down the owner ;) We would probably have to take all "responders" out to lunch to get to know them and verify their identity. All of this to return...$100. You think I'm joking, but I'm telling you...this is what my wife would want us to do ;)

If I found a $100 bill, I'd make an initial attempt to identify the owner (someone walking immediately away from the bill, someone standing nearby with an open wallet, someone frantically looking for something, etc) but if I could not identify that person, I'd keep it. This is only true for currency; a wallet, a bag, an envelope with writing/markings on it, etc - anything that might give me (or someone else) a clue to the owner - I would turn it in to the nearest authority.

Does the location make a difference?

If it's indoors, I'd turn the currency in to the whatever authority was on hand. Outdoors, no.

And what about the amount -- would that change things for you?

I suppose if the bill was a significant amount ($10,000 or more), I'd probably take it to the police. For $1,000? No.

And would it make a difference if anyone was with you or not?

Other than to verify the bill didn't belong to them, nope.

I also wouldn't leave my name or try and claim the money if the owner wasn't found, unless it was a significant amount.

I found $200 in a bank envelope outside my gym a few years back. I went to the front desk and gave them my number and told them I had found some money and if someone came to claim it to have them call me. They called and told me the amount and I took it to them. On the other hand, when my husband left his $120 sunglasses at a store counter they were not there when we returned for them. Now I only let him buy the cheap ones.

At the grocery the other day someone left a 12 pack of Bud Light on the bottom of their cart. As I walked up to it a worker picked it up and asked if it was mine. I said, "It would have been if I had seen it first." I think he knew I was joking.

it's good that those two sisters ended up doing the right thing, but part of their story is total BS:

"They took it home but didn't look inside until the next morning, when they were startled by the sight."

Yeah, you took a duffel bag full of who knows what into your house and didn't look in it till the next morning. Sure you did.

I found $40 inside a grocery store and turned it in to the manager without a second thought. No one ever claimed it but I wouldn't accept it either. The manager gives out little candies to the neighborhood kids so I told him to apply the $40 toward that.

I have found a couple twenties on the street- those I keep without much thought.

My son found $5 at school, we made him turn it in- no one claimed it and he got it back.

I dropped my wallet too long ago in a Costco parking lot. I didn't even miss it until I got a call on my cell phone while driving home. A very nice woman found my wallet (with license, credit cards and about $200 cash). I drove to where she was, which by now was miles away. She waited for me with two young kids in tow.

She didn't want a reward, but I gave her $20 anyway and told her to treat the kids for being so nice.

I think of this stranger often and I'm thankful to her and people like her. I now always try to find the owners of lost objects; and if I can't find them; I try to pay it forward in some way, ie. a contribution, etc.

And I make sure my telephone phone numbers are in all of my wallets and purses!

$100 or less. Keep it. Enough said.

i totally agree with you on most parts. i wouldnt even bother looking for the owners of a 1 5 10 or 20$ bill, unless it was in a controlled environment like you said, a doctors office. when it comes to larger amounts, i would most certainly try to find the owner or in an open area i would bring it to the police station and drop it off. im a big believer that a good deed done will be repaid at some point by someone!

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Totally depends on the circumstances. I'd definitely make every effort to find out whose it was, and then keep it if I couldn't find out.

I recently came across a lost iPhone and Kindle (separate occasions), having no idea who they belonged to or how to find their owners (the phone was locked, couldn't search numbers for owner info) I just turned them in to the front desk of the hotel and school building where I found them. I think that stuff like that is different because it's easier to determine who it actually belonged to, and is harder to replace. Cash, not so much. I left my name in case no one claimed them, and I haven't heard anything, so my conscience is clear (even if the person at the hotel desk kept it...hoping not, it was a pretty nice hotel).

Remember that whatever you found is the same thing that somebody lost. If I see small change on the street like coins I usually leave it for someone else. My wife has had a few experiences where she picked up a lost coin and then ended up losing more money later!

I found a ladies wallet while bicycling in the pre-dawn hours. The wallet had about $250 in it and a drivers license. We sent the wallet back to the address on the license with a note of where we found it, we did pay for the postage with the money in the wallet :-).

If I came across a $100 bill on the street I would get it and then give it to charity.


If I find something that is not in a very public place - in other words, on private property and where someone who lost it may have a chance to retrieve it, I'll either leave it where it is or submit to lost and found, property manager, etc.

Now, there is materiality threshold here. If it's $10, I won't take it. If it's just $1, and the person who lost it won't find it, I'll take it.

I have been a proponent of collecting these types of finds and giving them away to a worthy cause. If you opportunistically come across money that was unexpected, why not give much of it away? Some will probably really appreciate the help.

A few weeks ago we were in the drive through at the bank and received an extra $100 back. There was no indication of this on the receipt and the teller had no idea. I believe in karma, so we went immediately into the bank, bringing attention to the error. We were strapped for time, but waited as the teller finished up several cars and THEN counted the money (and found the error 30 minutes later). What can I say ... we're idiots. There was no "thank you" or acknowledgment of this unusual act, so we left quietly. I think the next time I'll take a chance with karma and just keep the money.

I would never turn it in but rather take charge of finding the owner myself. As posted by Tom... some punk took the money after he turned it in. I'm sorry to say but I don't trust strangers.

$100 in a store or business, I would report to the store that I found "money" and give the store my number. If someone reported losing money they would have to call me and identify how much they lost before I would return it.

$1000 in a bag on the street. I would post a money found ad on craigslist and post a few signs around the area where the money was found. And once again they would have to contact me and describe how much, what it was in and approximately where they think they lost it.

@ Randy: Did you ever hear the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished?"

Nevertheless I think you did the right thing.


If I had a good chance at finding the owner, I would. If not, I'd keep it.

After college, I found an envelope laying on the ground next to a car I parked by. It had $480 in it (our $400 rent was due soon, so that was probably it plus some walk around money). I knocked on 7 doors before finding the owner of the car and explaining I found some money near it...he quickly went back inside to check if he was missing anything. Then I asked him what bank he had used and how much he had missing (since the bank was on the envelope). He quickly answered (like immediately...$565 from BOA in 2 seconds). I got the envelope out of my car and handed it back. I think he would have kissed me if it didn't seem inappropriate. :-)

Ummm...I was going too fast...the envelope had $480, not $565...that's a different apartment's rent, lol.

I found a bank deposit bag stuffed full of money just chilling in my yard. Thinking I should do the right thing and call the police to see if anybody lost it, I later realized that it was evidence in a crime. Long story short...No good deed goes unpunished. In hindsight, I should have just taken the money and spent it.

I thought alot about this when one day I found a lottery ticket that could have yielded a grand prize of many millions of dollars. I thought that I would feel real bad about the person who lost the ticket it it was a winner. I decided to try my best to find the real owner if it was a winner. Just the thought of keeping the millions of dollars made me very uncomfortable. To find the real owner, I could view the security tapes of the store where it was bought. Being that I found the ticket in a supermarket, it would have been fairly simple to actually track the owner from the machine to a cash register, where the person could be identified through his/her store membership card. I thought a lot about this and though I would feel a bit, if not a lot stupid, if I found the owner and got nothing out of it, I truly felt that I would feel really, really, really guilty if I just kept it.
Suffice it say, the ticket didn't win anything and oddly enough, I was slightly relieved.

In Japan, people regularly take money to a local police station when found. Much of it is claimed and what isn't is rewarded to finder! Lost and founds in Japan are often very full of stuff. I found and was rewarded almost $200.00, once. True story....

Generally Tom's suggestion on how to deal with found cash is good. I wouldn't trust just handing loose cash to some employee somewhere for fear they'd just pocket it themselves.

If I found loose bills in the middle of nowhere then I'd likely just pocket it since there'd be virtually no chance of finding the real owner. Money in an envelope or other container is another story.

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