You find a wallet on the ground. There’s no one around. Do you keep it or do the right thing and try to return it?
This is a tricky question. On the one hand, you don’t want to be responsible for someone losing hundreds of dollars.
On the other hand, you could be setting yourself up for some significant legal trouble if you decide to keep it.
This article will help you understand when you legally need to return lost property to its owner and when it’s okay to keep the money.
Can You Go To Jail For Finding A Wallet?
Technically, no. Finding an item that is lost is not enough reason to be arrested. If someone drops their wallet and picks it up, you are not doing anything illegal.
However, if you keep the wallet and find out who the owner is, it’s illegal not to return it. If you find Ids and credit cards with their name and address in the wallet, make a reasonable effort to locate the owner. If you don’t, then it’s considered to be theft.
The Legality Of Finding A Wallet In The US
In the US, it’s illegal to find a wallet and not return it to the owner. Under the laws of most US states, one who finds lost property must make reasonable efforts to locate the owner and then return the property.
In short, if you find something, it belongs to its owner unless otherwise stated in a previous agreement.
Finding a wallet with money inside is a different story. In this case, there is no law against keeping the money, but someone could lodge a complaint against you for theft at some point.
If you come across a wallet with cash in it, there’s a rule of thumb to determine if it’s okay to keep the money.
If the cash amount exceeds $100 and the wallet contains a driver’s license or another form of identification, then turn it into the police or find the wallet’s owner.
Otherwise, you can keep it if you give reasonable notice to the wallet owner and only when there’s no form of identification. Though, this raises the question of morality.
There are several ways in which you can find lost property. You can find it on the street or in a store, or you could come across a wallet in your coat or purse. In some cases, even finding cash in your car could be considered lost property.
What Is “Finders Keepers”?
Finders keepers, loser’s weepers; It’s an old saying that’s been around for hundreds of years, but it’s also one that you might want to reconsider.
Finders keepers is a common law doctrine that states that you can keep something first if you find something first.
This doctrine is based on the idea that if a person finds something, they are entitled to keep it as long as they do not interfere with the actual owner’s right to reclaim it.
While this may sound like an open and shut case, the rule has some exceptions. If you find something in most jurisdictions and know who the actual owner is, you must return it to them.
If you take possession of an item, in this instance, the wallet, you have to return it to the owner, especially if there are identification documents inside.
Where Does The Law Stand On This Issue?
The American legal system has always been a little fuzzy on the concept of finder’s keepers. The best way to explain it is that you have the right to find something, but you do not necessarily have the right to keep it.
Some laws protect the rightful owner from people who would try to keep what isn’t theirs. Laws limiting public nuisances, trespassing, and theft all come into play when dealing with lost property.
These laws protect against people who would take an item without locating the rightful owner.
If, for example, you found a wallet one night and you took the cash and credit cards out of the wallet, then threw it in a trash can.
If you then tried to use one of the credit cards to buy yourself a little something nice, that would be considered identity theft.
Then the answer is yes. You can go to jail for finding a wallet and taking money from it. If you are caught, which will happen, you could face several years in prison.
Every year, the United States Justice Department prosecutes thousands of individuals for theft, many of whom are unaware that what they have done is considered a crime.
Per the United States Criminal Code, theft occurs when a person knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property that belongs to another person, with the intent to deprive that person of their property.
In most cases, small-scale theft such as shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor. However, grand theft and identity theft is typically charged as felony offenses.
When Can You Go To Jail For Finding A Wallet?
- You can go to jail for hiding a wallet with someone else’s ID in it.
- You can also go to jail for attempting to cash a check that belongs to someone else or using someone else’s credit card.
- If you find a wallet that contains identification documents, you should contact the authorities.
- If you find the wallet owner and return it, you cannot be found guilty of any crime.
- You can go to jail if you use credit cards to shop.
What To Do When You Find A Wallet
If you find a wallet, there are several things that you should do.
- First, secure the cash and cards inside of it.
- Next, if there is a business card inside the wallet, call or visit the address listed on the card.
- If there isn’t a business card inside the wallet, you can try to return it to its owner through social media or with a flyer posted in your neighborhood.
- If you have no luck with either of those methods and think that you won’t be returning the wallet to its rightful owner, then you should take all of its contents to your nearest police station and report it.
- Then surrender everything to the police. That way, you have washed off your hands. If the police find the owner, well and good; if not, it’s still none of your business.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when a thief gets hold of your information to steal your money, open credit cards in your name, apply for loans, and much more. Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time and can significantly impact your life.
Identity theft is one of the most severe crimes in the United States. Whether it’s your credit card or your social security number, someone out there is trying to steal it. It’s estimated that around 60 million people have been victims of identity theft, and that number is only rising.
In fact, according to the statistics, in 2020, identity theft was the top complaint among all consumer fraud claims, with a whooping 1.4million reported cases.
The “most common type of identity theft reported involved someone using a victim’s existing credit card account.”
If you’re not careful, you could wake up one day with your identity being stolen. You’ll have to deal with the consequences of identity theft for years to come. The good news is that you can take steps to protect yourself from identity theft.
Ways To Protect Yourself
While there’s no fool-proof way to prevent your personal information from being stolen, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from having your identity used by someone else for nefarious reasons.
Create strong passwords
Your passwords should consist of at least ten characters, a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, plus numbers and symbols.
It’s essential to keep track of your passwords in a secure location because it can be challenging to remember them all.
Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. It adds a second form of verification, such as a one-time password, in addition to the account login credentials.
Track personal information and expenses
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to keep track of your personal information.
When you start working with a new company or buying something online, get in the habit of checking your credit report and monitoring your credit score.
Protect your information
Be careful when sharing information online. Always use a secure browser, and be sure that you’re on the right site before entering any personal information.
You can also lock your debit cards so that if you lose your wallet, your account is safe from fraud.
It’s not a good idea to find someone else’s wallet and not return it. While many things can go wrong, you don’t want to face any of these consequences. As we discussed in this article, there are a lot of factors that determine if you will face jail time for finding a lost wallet.
If you find someone’s wallet, it is best to be honest, and return it as soon as possible.