Have you ever been walking down the street and then, out of the corner of your eye, spotted the friendly face of George Washington staring up at you? Maybe Abe Lincoln? Or if it’s a really good day, maybe Hamilton or Jackson? No, I’m not talking about actual faces—that would be… weird—I’m talking about the Benjamins. The bills. Money, to be clear.
It’s always a lucky day when you see a couple of bucks lying in the road or unobtrusively in some corner of a store or restaurant; but it usually is just a couple of bucks. My rule? If it is $5 or less and nobody is around to ask about it, I consider it a gift from the money gods. But what if it was a twenty? Or a fifty? Or maybe a couple hundred dollars? What would you do then? Not only do the big Moral Questions come into play here, but also the legal questions.
Over the years there have been countless stories in the news about people just finding huge sums of money. Now we’ll tell you some of those stories, starting with the most recent and perhaps most bizarre; but as you’re reading these tales, ask yourself, what would you do? Would you take the money and run? Or would you do what these people did and turn it in?
Be honest with yourself here. After all, there are plenty of people out there who don’t report finding money—their stories just aren’t in the news.
1) A million dollar tip. Okay, this million dollars wasn’t actually left behind as a tip, but it was left behind in a briefcase in an Australian pizzeria in mid November. The weird part about it is, the guy, a 49-year-old Chinese man from Hong Kong, not only left a million dollars in Australian currency in the case, but also his ID and other personal items. And the weird, weird part is, after the man nervously ordered a coffee and then left the café, and police picked him up later in the afternoon, they had to take him to a hospital for an “unknown pre-existing medical condition,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
2) Money from a bank robbery. Like I said, sometimes it is illegal to keep found money, and this is just such a case. In October of this year, after robbing a bank, eh, rather unsuccessfully and being chased by police, the two robbers began throwing the stolen money out of the window of their car. Now I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to accomplish, but what they did, was scatter about $76,000 across several miles of road in Wyoming. The FBI was able to recover about $60,000 of the money, by finding it themselves and requesting that people turn it in; but about $16,000 is still missing. Now in this case, those people who hung onto their found cash after the story was publicized were actually holding onto pieces of an investigation. Of course they probably won’t get caught—the money was unmarked and indistinguishable from other money—so the $16,000 question is a moral one.
3) Money in the streets of Indianapolis. Just over a year ago, another “found money” story made headlines, when three bags of money fell out of the back of an armored truck in Indianapolis. At first the bags just sat in the middle of the downtown street, as bags tend to do, but soon they were torn open by passing cars. Twenty-dollar bills littered Washington street and soon, so did people trying to grab the money. One observer called the police to alert them of the dangerous situation and took it upon himself to move the bags to the side of the road and guard them until cops showed up. Total, there was about $2 million in the bags—minus the $20,000 or so that had blown away. Check out this video of the incident.
4) A tale of found money with an unhappy ending. Shelly Johnson always believed in doing the right thing, so when she found a large amount of money in a parking lot, she turned it into police. Now that was all well and good, but the police told her that if after 30 days, nobody claimed the cash, she could have it. Thirty days turned into sixty; sixty turned into 140; and still, nobody claimed the money. And yet Shelly hasn’t seen a dime of it. “Everybody I talk to says they would have put it in their pocket and walked off, but I try to teach my kids to do the right thing,” Johnson said to local news. “Now, they see the system is working against you.”
5) A tale of “unclaimed money” with a happy ending. Now “unclaimed money” is a little bit different than just finding cash in the street. Why? Because there are no pesky moral questions or legal obligations to worry about—the money is yours. You may have heard of some of these “unclaimed money” stories in the news, or in fact, some of the “unclaimed money” scams that have taken place over the years; but this is a real thing. Just ask the 81-year-old woman from Wisconsin who recently discovered she had $244,000 out there in unclaimed money. When I say discovered, I mean that the government notified her after several years of the money just sitting idle.
Click here to find out if you have some unclaimed money out there. Remember, this woman never would have known if they hadn’t eventually contacted her!
So, Mango readers… what would you do in these situations?