Tuesday, September 26, 2023


What would you do if you found $1,000 in an unmarked paper bag?

Return to Issue 881, January 26, 2019

What if you were out for a walk and came upon a plain paper bag filled with $1,000 in cash, and there was absolutely no way to identify who it belonged to? What would you do? Would you turn it over the police? Or would you just keep it?

If you can think of another option, please check “other” and leave a comment.

Return to Issue 881, January 26, 2019

Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodburyhttps://rvtravel.com
I'm the founder and publisher of RVtravel.com. I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.


  1. For all those tempted to keep it, think about this. Is there a chance that the money was stolen, and the serial numbers on some or all of the bills are known to the authorities? Probably not likely at all with twenties, but with fifties or hundreds? Just wondering.

  2. Great question!

    My answer was/is “keep it” BUT — I would report (and/or post online) that I found an undisclosed amount of money and give a general area. If someone contacted the local police and accurately described the bag; the amount of cash; and the area where it was lost, I would return it to them in person.

  3. If you turn it over to the police and there is no way to identify who it belongs to, what do you think he is going to do with it? I’m sure it’s going into his pocket so might as well keep it for yourself.

    • If by “he” you mean the police, you have a very low opinion of those who protect us.
      The lost property would be logged, and in almost all cases, if the found property is unclaimed, the finder can and will get it back.

  4. I found a wallet in the parking lot of a pizza place years ago. It had $800.00 in cash and airline tickets to New York, plus credit cards, driver’s license, various membership cards and his business card. I called him up and told him I had his wallet and he returned in less than 10 minutes to retrieve it. He went through it to check if anything was missing and then ACCUSED me of stealing it! I was shocked and dismayed that in doing the right thing I was made out to be the bad guy. Might think twice if there is a next time.

    • That is OUTRAGEOUS behavior! That man is a sorry excuse for a human being.

      At least you know you did the right thing. Good for you!

  5. I would notify the authorities but keep it till the proper owner was found. I have trust issues.
    If no one claimed it with the correct info ,as in fingerprints, the amount of cash, I would hand it over to a homeless shelter.

  6. I might let the authorities know that I found a large amount of cash in an unspecified location in their jurisdiction.

    Then, if someone came forward with the correct amount of money and said it was in an unmarked paper bag, likely lost near where I found it, I’d turn it in. Otherwise I’d keep it.

  7. My wife discovered a ladies purse in the bottom rack of a shopping cart at a large shopping centre. She took it home went through it, found it had about 400 dollars in it. Found the ladies ID, phoned her. She said she’d drop by the next day for it, which she did. Drove up in a 60 thousand dollar Volvo, came to the door, grabbed the purse from my wife, looked inside said thanks turned and walked away.
    Hmmm, said the wife “might have to think about how I’d handle this another time”.

    She’d still call the owner; I know she would, but if you are that owner – show a little humanity beyond a bland “thanks”.

    • I hope your wife would act the same way; a ‘thanks a lot’ would have been nice, but I do believe ‘virtue is its own reward’.

  8. I would notify authorities that if someone can identify contents, I would return. However, there is always one jerk around for the saying “No good deed goes unpunished” Waiting for a bus in Minneapolis, I see in an open trash can a wallet with a ID from a local company that I won’t say but goes like “3-” I call the company and told to call another location, all while waiting for the “Your call is important, but really isn’t or we would answer” Find the guy and he want me to mail the wallet to him. Said since he in in Minneapolis, to come and get it at my work. He arrives to get wallet with something like $85.00 in it and accuses me of pealing off some cash (which I didn’t) All this crap after spending probably 2 hours at work to return his wallet. A few days later saw another wallet in the trash can again at the bus stop. I walked away. Who needs this crap.

    • Can it be there is a pickpocket at the bus stop. Two wallets found in two days seems more than coincidental. Maybe the owner spent $85.00 on something he doesn’t want to explain to a spouse.

  9. I would do what Dan did, but I like his idea of photographing the bag and the money. I would also use Facebook in addition to Craigslist.

  10. I would take a picture of the bag and the money, then give it to the local police department, requesting a receipt. Then I ‘d put an ad on Craigslist and the local paper. Any responses to the ad would be shared with the PD and hopefully the cash would get back to it’s rightful owner. If there was no response I would ask the PD to use it in one of their benevolent programs. After reading some of the other comments I see a couple of issues some of you ‘good’ citizens have. Is your notion that all cops are bad based on your getting busted for a traffic violation when the cop should’ve been out arresting real criminals? Or is it because you soak up the negative reporting about police and ignore it when an officer goes out of his way to do something nice, even risking his life when needed? The other that someone carrying all that cash is either a drug dealer or has a mental problem. Believe me, there are many people out there that do not use banks of any kind. They literally live paycheck to paycheck, always pay by cash, and cannot afford to pay any bank fees. The next time you stop and spend $100 on fuel and $20 on snacks, ask yourself if that person behind the cash register could do that, working for minimum wage plus maybe 50 cents.

  11. Sounds like a drug deal went bad.How many people would you think be calling you if you post that you found $1000 dollars in an unmarked paper bag?I would definitely keep it.

  12. I’d tell the local substation police that I found some money and if anyone could ID the amount and what it was contained it, they could have it. If no one claimed it, I’d keep it.

  13. I really don’t know, and to be HONEST I don’t think many people really know, until they find it. It’s so easy to say what you would do when it costs you nothing, but when you have the money in your hot little hand your answer could be much different.

  14. I would definitely keep it in a place where some of it would go out to those who need it and for the animal rescues who definitely need funds

  15. Hmm, I know… I KNOW!!! I would make a Forum post right here on RV Travel and hope that most responses match my intentions 😉
    Either that, or find the best response agreed by the posters and do that myself!

  16. I would hang on to it and put it in a home safe. Wait til I heard anything in the paper, on TV or something otherwise. If I didn’t hear from anybody or paper or TV, I would just let it sit in my safe until at least a year went by. Then, it’s mine. Finders, keepers.

  17. 50 yrs ago I found a three 20 bills on sidewalk outside my parents home. I sat and waited on front porch to see if anyone came by. About forty minutes later I saw a young woman walking down the sidewalk with her head down looking around. When she got near I walked towards her and asked what she was looking for. She told me she lost some money and how much it was (she lost four $20) I gave her the money I found. She was relieved. She never found the other bill. I felt good returning it to her. I not sure what I would have done with it had she not come back by. I like to think I would have donated it.

  18. I’d leave it alone. Might be part of a drug deal. May only be $1K, but for a small-time loser thinking he’s gonna be a big time high dollar drug dealer someday, that $1K is a lot of money. And he’s gotta make sure everyone “respects him! IOW that $1K is nothing to a high volume dealer, but is it worth your life to find out?

  19. Post it on social media and flyers, just don’t divulge the amount or complete description of the item. I did this twice with individual diamond earrings, one was worth $500. After 3 months, it was legally mine.

  20. I would look on FB and social media for someone who lost money and they would need to describe amount and container (and anything else I could think of). If we couldn’t place the money with anyone, then 10% to our little church and 90% to charity. Definitely would not keep it.

  21. I also would keep it while attempting to locate the person who lost it. Depending on where I was an add in the local paper or Craig’s list. The only problem with that is, in all probability, a needy person losing that type of money rarely uses a computer or buys a newspaper. Almost every piece of money in circulation will have traces of illegal drugs so all could be seized by the local police. Again, it would depend on where I was and when I found the money. Gifts for kids at Christmas, St. Jude’s hospital, the local food bank – there are a lot of good things you could do with the money.

  22. It’s hard to believe that someone would lose that much money and not be looking for it, so I would keep my eyes and ears open to try to find the rightful owner. If unable, or on a short schedule where I had to move on, I would contact local authorities and inquire as to the procedure (without telling them who I was, of course).
    I couldn’t keep the money, so if the owner did not claim it, I would try to make sure it went to the Salvation Army or Red Cross to help people in need. Fortunately, I do not have need for that money today. There was a time, when I was young, I would probably have kept it. Not today, thank God.

  23. It would depend on the circumstances, if somewhere like a park I would check to see if anything had been reported missing. If it was in an isolated place in the middle of nowhere I would check with the police. I would check lost and found ad’s in the areas, if nothing came of all that I would keep it and think it was my lucky day.

  24. Notify local authorities only if they will provide a receipt and info on what they do with it if it’s not claimed. If someone comes forward to claim it, the authorities can best determine if they’re honest but also ask them to state the amount, approximate denominations of the bills, and approximate location where I found it.

  25. I’m surprised by the number of people that don’t trust the authorities. What does that say about the state of affairs in this country of ours?

    • That ALL THREE BRANCHES of our Federal government are a JOKE and, that lack of leadership has, for DECADES, been filtering down through MANY state and local governments. The primary concern for just about every elected official seems to focus on getting themselves reelected. Of course, that has all been allowed to happen because THE VOTERS have failed in their basic civic responsibilities to monitor (and remove when necessary), officials that care more about their (the officials’) interests over of the interests of America and Americans. Big business has bought, and now controls, all the media (TV, Cable, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines etc). That makes it VERY difficult (impossible?) for the “Average Joe” to get accurate, unbiased information on which to make informed decisions (there’s a REASON why EVERY political party works to keep the public in general and voters in particular, at each others’ throats). This shift has occurred over decades so, I DON’T see this dismal situation changing anytime soon (although, there is a rather simple solution. Throw the bums out [ALL of them] and, replace them with NEW bums)! After two ~ four election cycles, the “bums” will be gone and, there be a REAL chance for improvement) because “business as usual” will no longer be tolerated by the voters. Are the voters likely to step up and be responsible? I, for one, am NOT holding my breath. 🙁

  26. I would keep the bag but notify the authorities. The property would be available to anyone who clamed and provided a detail description. If not claimed in 60 days, its mine.

  27. Since I walk so poorly that I use a 4-wheel mobility scooter to get around, I always carry plastic bags with me and use my reacher gadget to pick up all the trash I find when I “hike.” So what would likely happen with me in this scenario is that I’d pick up the bag, add it to my other collected trash, and throw it in the next public trash can I find!

    However, should I look inside the bag and find the money, I would call the police because the bag might have fingerprints on it that could be identified. Also, as others have pointed out, this would be so strange that I would assume it is connected with something illegal.

    I did find a wallet once when out walking in a subdivision. It contained only two things–a $20 bill and an ID for local gym. I looked in the local phone book (you can tell how long ago this was) and couldn’t find the name on the ID. I called the gym and told them what I found and they said they had no member by that name. I called the local police station and was told they would see if they could locate him. A few days later they called me back to say that this person does not exist–no driver’s license, no Social Security number, no local address. Strange, eh? They told me to keep the money, but I have always wondered about that ID and nothing else in the billfold but the money.

  28. Legally, it should be turned into local authorities as “Found Property”. A case number should be assigned and, the finder should receive an OFFICIAL receipt accurately describing the “Found Property” along with the case number. Each state has laws governing how long “Found Property” must be held for and, during that time, an investigation is supposed to be conducted, in an effort to find the true owner, so that said “Found Property” may be returned to said rightful owner. The time period can range from months to many years depending upon the value of said “Found Property”. AFTER the statutory time has passed, the finder is usually allowed to claim the property they found BUT, in the recent past, the Federal government has passed “laws” that allow Federal or local authorities to SIEZE cash if they merely SUSPECT might have some ties to drug trafficking (and possibly other forms of illegal activity). You could be driving in a totally lawful manner and be stopped say, at a DWI Checkpoint (or be involved in an accident). Should the authorities somehow learn that you have in your possession a “large sum” of cash, they can SIEZE your personal property (the cash) by simply claiming is to be” illegal proceeds”! You haven’t been arrested or charged with any offense (because you’ve done nothing wrong) but, your cash has been taken by gun toting uniformed law officers! It’s up to YOU to take the officer(s) / agency to court AND, when you prevail, you get your money back BUT you’re still out all the costs you’ve incurred in the long process! Travel safely and legally, get “large sums” of cash secured OFF your person (until the time you need it). If stopped (say at a “DWI Checkpoint” you are NOT required to let ANYONE search you or your vehicle unless they have a proper, court issued warrant to do so (or, you’re careless enough to say something that incriminates you, thus giving the officer “Probable Cause” to search). I realize, that in some jurisdictions, CCW (Concealed Carry Weapons) permit holders are required to advise an officer that they have said CCW permit and, are exercising the rights said CCW permit provides. ALWAYS comply with such requirements! Otherwise, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Do NOT “agree” to allow a “casual search” of your vehicle. Legally, you’re only required to give your name, address, DOB and, if you’re operating a motor vehicle, your driver’s license and the registration and proof of insurance for said motor vehicle (if required by local law). I am NOT a lawyer or attorney and am NOT dispensing legal advice. I simply do know that often, people talk / say too much when confronted by a law enforcement officer. Any questions you may have SHOULD BE asked of PROPER LEGAL COUNCIL. It would be PRUDENT to have a discussion WITH your lawyer / attorney BEFORE something happens rather that AFTER. It could TRULY be money well spent.

    • Of all the replys, yours was the best. They will assign a number and after a specific time period, the money would be returned to you for donation, etc or even for your needs.

      • It was mostly correct but in CA at least, completely WRONG about us gun toting uniformed officers seizing large sums of $ without a separate crime that would lead to the seizure (28 years of gang/drug experience…) Correct about revealing a ccw and weapon immediately. DWI/DUI checkpoints, unless there’s reasonable suspicion/probable cause, you won’t be asked for license/reg/in’s, you’ll be waved along. If there is any of the aforementioned and you refuse to talk, bad advice could and will lead to detrimental results lol. If I’m going to conduct a legal investigation, you don’t have the right to counsel. Only when arrested. The rest is just ranting.

  29. These days, i’d donate it to my own charity (MORTotes, who helps foster kids). I know 100% makes it to the kids, even more with matching donations.

    5 years ago, i’d post a misleading-to-shills but clear-to-loser “Found lunchbag” and let them ID contents.

    NEVER, EVER give to police these days – they wont investigate and DO take it as forfeiture.

  30. I would check with local authorites to determine how they process “found money”. If unclaimed and it ends up at an appropriate charitable organization, I’d leave it with them. If not, I’d find my own preferred charity.

  31. Slightly different scenario, but years ago I found a wad of money, almost $100, sitting by a self-pay box at a parking garage in downtown Seattle. I was heading to work a couple of blocks away, so I took the money and left a note where the money had been, asking for the owner to phone me at work, describe the amount of money, and I’d tell them where to come and get it. About a half hour later I got a call from a senior lady. She and some friends had gone to the “big city” for the day to have lunch and see a play. They forgot their money by the parking slot when they counted it out. They told me how much it was, and I told them where to come and get it. They were so happy that they wanted to give me a reward. I turned them down — and we all had a very nice day (well, except that I was working on a Saturday). 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

  32. Depends on where I found it, in an isolated area, or in an inhabited area I would try to find out if anybody was around, if not go to the authorities

  33. I would look around for the obvious “shady character “……sounds like a drug deal went bad.
    Normal folks don’t go around with $1,000 in an unmarked brown paper bag.
    If you are sure you were not seen picking up such a bag you might keep the money.
    If you were seen then you are now in a risk pool !

  34. This is a tough question. I’ve found dollar bills drifting along the sidewalk – and kept them. My wife found a five dollar bill while we were out walking in a local park. And, MY best was a 20 dollar bill in the empty parking lot of the same park (we walk there a LOT). So at what point do you decide NOT to keep money? If I found a hundred dollar bill floating along the pavement, I’d keep that too. Do you walk up to the first person you see and ask if they misplaced a thousand bucks? As someone else mentioned, if the above-mentioned money was in a paper bag, I too would think it was, um, unusual. And while many folks say they’d immediately donate it to charity, I’m not so sure . . . Just sayin’.

    • Last year my wife found a $20 bill in the commuter lot of our local train station, while we were out on our daily walk. I don’t think $20 is enough to warrant turning it in to authorities, although I’m sure someone missed their lunch money that day.
      I’ve always been of the belief that found money isn’t really mine, so we went to the grocery store and bought $20 worth of basic groceries and took them to our local food bank. At least it went to someone who needed it.

  35. Back in 1979 I had a fiat in Norman . Ok. on N Flood Ave next to my car was a black trash bag, I tots it in the trunk and went to work. The next day I had the tire fixed and wile I was watering I looked into the bag before I through it in the trash what I found was $10,000.00 in $20.00’s and $1.00’s . We called the Police three days later I was told that the cash was lost by a homeless Vet. and some how fell off his bicycle and had been looking for it . I was very happy I was the one to recover it for him, for I am also a Vet.

  36. Keep it after gifting 10% to my church. Then go to a local diner and “pay it forward” by paying for another customer’s meal.

  37. Anybody that needs that money is not going to carry it in a paper bag, they’re going to have it safely stashed on their body. Therefore it’s probably ill gotten money from a criminal type person who threw it out the window in a police chase. If you turn it over to police nobody but the police will ever see it again, that would buy a lot of coffee and donuts. If you place an ad for lost and found someone will guess the right amount and you’ll never know if they were the rightful owner unless they can give the serial numbers on each bill which no one could do. The idea of giving it to charity is good, but walking in with a $1000 cash and giving it to someone sitting at the desk is a big temptation for that person as there is no way to trace cash. So the only solution would be keep it and wait until someone knocks on your door and asks you if you found a paper bag with $1000 in it while you were out walking on such and such street, now you have fairly good idea the money probably belongs to that person. I know if I lost $1000 in a paper bag I’d be asking everybody I saw!

  38. If there were any indications on or in the bag that might lead to identifying the owner then I would certainly try to do so. But a truly “unmarked paper bag” would be kept and my thoughts would be “today is my lucky day”. It may sound callous but I have little sympathy for anyone so foolish as to keep $1,000 cash in an unmarked paper bag and then lose the bag itself.

    • If you post the contents and description on Craigslist, you would have thousands of people claiming it was theirs’ . best thing to do is post, “Found bag” or whatever was found, with location and let the caller describe it and the contents. Or, contact the police and let them know you found it, and would hold onto to it for a specified time to see if someone reports it.

  39. I believe that I would post an ad under lost and found and also tell the authorities that I found a paper sack and if someone could identify the contents, that I would give it back to them. If this were in the 50’s or 60’s I would give it to the authorities and wait to see if anyone claimed it.

  40. Try to find the owner of the lost money in various ways. If not able to find proper owner of the lost funds, would make sure a local food bank or homeless shelter received the unclaimed funds.

  41. If you turn it in to authorities they will just claim it is drug money and seize it under asset forfeiture rules.
    I would spend every penny and then some to provide food for the homeless.

  42. I would turn it in to legal authorities and document it well that I did so. After a period of time with no one claiming the money I should get it back.

    We don’t know what this loss will mean for someone. It could be what someone needs to pay their rent or their bills and the loss of this money will be devastating. Our gain could be someone else’s major set back. How would you feel if you lost such a large sum of money. I know it would be a punch in the gut for me,

  43. I’d place an ad in the Lost and Found section of the county newspaper saying that the bag had been found but not specify the contents.

  44. Just COULD NOT keep it.
    Can’t bring myself to trust authorities with it.
    So…only thing to do is give it to some struggling minor local charity effort..say a feed the kids or habitat for humanity project, a homeless shelter or any one of a dozen such much-needed efforts.

  45. I was shocked to learn that In our island community we have over 100 homeless high school students, living in scattered vehicles or ‘couch-camping’ in friends homes. The best place to take that $1,000 would be to the local volunteer agency that tries to help them.

  46. I agree with Betty, post a generic ad in the local paper stating a bag was found at such and such location. If the caller could tell me what was in the bag, precise amount, they would get it back, otherwise it’s mine. I’m just wondering why someone would be carrying $1000 in a paper bag and not in their pocket or purse or fanny pack or brief case or lock box. A paper bag makes me think that this money is from a nefarious deal.

  47. After exhausting all possible ways to find the owner, I would give it to a shelter to help with bitter cold winter needs.

  48. I would post it in the notices section of the local newspaper for its owner to specifically identify the lost object and its location. If no valid response then it’s mine. How many people would you think be calling you if you post that you found $1000 dollars in an unmarked paper bag? Most likely you would be inundated within the first few hours with thousands of calls.

  49. I would post locally that I found a bag and if they lost it and could tell me what was inside, I would give it to them. If no response, I’d keep it.

  50. I’m no saint but I’m not so desperate for money that I would keep it. I’d feel too guilty if I did. Besides, the person who lost an unmarked paper bag of money probably needs it a lot more than I do!


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