I Found Money, What Now?

So what happens if you find a lump sum of cash laying on the floor of a store or in a parking lot?

Do you turn it into a store employee or the authorities? Or do you try to find the rightful owner of the money and if you can’t you just keep it?

That was the exact scenario a friend was recently faced with when he pulled into a TJ Maxx parking lot.

As he stepped out of his car he looked down and found $600 in an envelope. It was evident the money was freshly drawn from an ATM as the envelope contained 30 crisp twenty dollar bills!

As a former Marine and an overall upstanding citizen, he tracked down a manager at the store and turned the money in hopes the owner would come looking for it.

He left his information with the manager (Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this article to see what happened with my friend and the money)!

However, after he told me the story, it led me to wonder what do you do if you find cash on the ground? What are the protocols for claiming found money and what is the right move to make?

What you should do with found money!

The first instinct when someone finds money on the ground is to probably keep it. Maybe it’s just me, but I just said what most people think about when they find cash on the ground. Truth be told I don’t know what I would do if I found $5, $50, or $500, but I know how I would feel if I was the person who lost $500. 

However, there are some legalities to found money and the most common step when you find a large sum of cash it to first contact the authorities. 

Contact Local Authorities

According to an article from HG Legal Resources, there are state by state legal obligations even if you find an unidentified bank envelope full of money like my friend did.  You cannot legally pocket the money, 

“Most states still require that you contact local law enforcement and give the money to them for a period of time to allow the owner the opportunity to claim it. Should the rightful owner fail to surface after a certain period of time, every state's laws will allow the finder to take the money as his or her own.”

HG Legal Resources 

So not only is doing the right thing when you find money good for how you feel – but legally you’re supposed to turn it in to give the owner the right to claim their hard-earned money. 

In the event you find a purse or wallet with identification or you see someone lose money, legally speaking, it must be turned in so the rightful owner can claim the money.

Now you might be asking do I have to call the cops if I find money in the store?

What to do if you find money in a store. 

What my friend did (Turning the cash into the manager at the Tj Maxx) was probably the second-best move besides calling the local authorities. 

In most cases, the individual who lost the $600 would most likely call the police to file a lost money report, then start backtracking their steps and start calling around to possibly locate their lost money. 

However, if you’re in a store and you happen to find money on the ground, simply finding the store manager is a safe bet. Be sure to do what my friend did and leave your information along with the money and don’t hesitate to follow up to see if it found it’s the rightful owner. 

If someone accidentally dropped the money, they may be looking for it and they would obviously start with customer service. There is also the all too common scenario of cashback or change being left behind at self-checkouts!

What to do with cashback & change that is left behind:

The self-checkout feature at grocery stores is amazing for saving time, but not so amazing when it comes to forgetting your change or cashback!

In fact, this year I used the cashback feature at Walmart and I left $20 in the dispenser… luckily the gentleman working the self-checkout stopped me and pointed to the cash!

Had he not done that I would have probably walked out and not realized it until I got home!

At this point, you might be remembering a time you did something similar. If that is the case, most stores have a policy for the money left behind in dispensers at self-checkouts!

Simply contact the store if you lost money, or if you find it – turn it in at customer service!

What if I find a few dollars?

Obviously, if you come across a few dollars blowing around a running trail one morning or sitting under a park bench the finders keepers rule goes into action. 

If no one is around to claim the money, chances are someone isn’t going to come looking for a lost dollar and the hassle of contacting the authorities and tracking down the $1 bill’s rightful owner is not worth the effort for anyone involved! 

However, the small change or dollar bill does mean a lot to one population… little kids! And in that case, there is a different answer! 

[See also; 5 Rules to Stop Making Money Complicated]

What if your child finds money on the ground?

Little kids say and do the darndest things, but they also have a good eye for shiny things and dollar bills. 

Maybe because they are low to the ground, it always seems like little kids find themselves in precious situations, such as finding money on the ground. Take for instance this personal finance blogger – Kelan Kline who found $50 at age 7. 

What did he do with the money he found? He turned it in of course 🙂

found money

In the event your child finds a $20 bill on the ground, this is a great time to teach a financial lesson. Some positive ideas for helping your child with the decision on what to do with their newly found money include:

  • Contacting the authorities and turn the money in
  • If it’s a few dollars have them donate the money
  • If you let them keep the money be sure to at least teach a personal finance lesson such as saving the money

Teaching your child the value of money is one thing but also teaching them the value of doing the right thing is an easy task when they find money on the ground, which typically seems to happen or most little ankle-biters at some point!

Random Productivity Tip: This is a really cool productivity tip, but the first 250 words of this article including this section were created with the audio text feature on my iPhone. I simply opened up a new Google Doc while I was driving and started using the talk to text feature. After hearing my friend’s story about finding cash I wanted to keep the idea fresh!

Final words if you found some money:

Just do the right thing in your heart. 

While this might seem a bit cheesy, I am a firm believer of Karma (The irony of this entire article is the day after my friend found the cash on the ground I was teaching a unit on Hindu religion in my World History class). And of course, Karma was one of the main topics during our lesson!

Regardless, my friends handling of the money was pretty Johnny on the spot and it was better than just simply pocketing the money. 

Turning it into the manager of the store where the money was found was a great idea, however, there is no guarantee the rightful owner will ever find it… or the store will contact him if by chance they don’t.

However, he did what was right and guess what happened???

Money was returned!

Not thirty minutes after finding the money did my friend received a call from a mother who was so thankful!

In a panic, she went to Tj Maxx in hopes of finding the $600 in cash and asked the manager who turned it over to her. She called my friend to thank him.

Evidently, she was putting her baby in the car seat and it had somehow fell out of her car or jacket!

Doing the right thing worked out for everyone!!!

Which leads to this final verdict on finding money:

The final verdict for someone who finds money laying around is to first contact the authorities, especially if that amount starts to creep past the $50 range. Turning in a $1, $5, or $10 bill in most cases might not be worth the hassle. 

However, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who just lost a crisp $100 bill… if you can empathize you will always know what to do with the randomly found money!

Question: What is the most money you have ever found?