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Altan

Are you stealing if you find money?

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I'm sure this has happened to many of you, but you're going about your day, say walking along a foot path, and you happen to see a coin on the ground.

What would you do? (Or what have you done?)

From the very few times that I've happened to come across a random coin on the ground, I end up picking it up and putting it in my wallet (then again it depends how much it is, if it's 5cents I won't bother, a 50c, dollar or $2 coin, I would). Now I'm not sure if this topic has already been discussed (I did a quick search which didn't return anything directly related), but is this immoral? Have I stolen someone elses money? Should I have left it there? But then again, someone else would have most likely taken it, so it would have been in my interest. Plus you can't exactly 'report' it to the police.

I'm mainly talking about small sums of money that are just coins. But what if you were to find a large sum of money? I wouldn't take it, but rather report it to say the police(?).

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No.

Theft specifically requires intent by one party to remove property from another property by dishonest or physical means.

For large amounts, I personally would want to try to find the owner, if possible. Not because of any moral obligation, but because I would simply hope someone else would do the same for me.

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but because I would simply hope someone else would do the same for me.

This is also my reasoning for reporting a lost wallet or anything else that can identify the owner, to a police station (or wherever). But the closest I've ever come to reporting a lost object, was finding a mobile phone (quite a good one too at the time) at a car park outside a shopping centre, so I handed it in at one of those help desks. I've never lost anything of great value (as in a wallet or mobile phone), but if I ever do, I'd expect that if someone were to come across it, that they'd report it somewhere.

This reminds me when a friend of mine lost her wallet one night, and we re-traced our steps (even went as far as shining our mobile's into a rubbish bin that she threw some food into) but didn't find it. The next day she went to the local police station close to where she lost it and someone had handed the wallet in, but the $30 she had was gone. So I pose another question: is this stealing? Whom ever found the wallet would have seen her drivers license. Yet the money was taken out in a dishonest way, so I'd say it is stealing.

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If there was a way to identify the owner- her ID card- and they returned the wallet after having extracted the money, yes, it was definitely stealing.

Of course, the $30 could have become separated from the wallet in the fall and someone else may have picked the money up after someone else took the wallet, but that's really just speculating.

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Surely it matters whether one has a reasonable way of identifying the owner of the lost property. Items like wallets or cell phones usually have ownership trails that can be traced -- driver's licenses, phone numbers and the like. A large sum of money might have had its loss reported to local authorities -- if somebody tells the lost and found that they dropped five hundred bucks, and you found five hundred bucks, the odds are that it's theirs. But how are you going to track down the legitimate owner of the quarter you found on the ground? Ought implies can, and in this case you can't.

Note that the logic changes, even with coins, in cases where you can identify the owner. Nobody would consider it OK to pick up and keep a quarter that was just dropped by the guy standing in front of you in the checkout line at the store. You know it's his, and he's right there in front of you.

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^^Nicely said.

If there was a way to identify the owner- her ID card- and they returned the wallet after having extracted the money, yes, it was definitely stealing.

Of course, the $30 could have become separated from the wallet in the fall and someone else may have picked the money up after someone else took the wallet, but that's really just speculating.

We pondered this too, but in the end decided to just curse the person who took the money :)

Edited by Altan

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It seems like a question of value. Obviously if most of us found a child alone we would care much more about returning him to his guardians then if we found a penny. We place an assumed value based on what we think the owner thinks something is worth. Maybe that coin was a rare coin. Maybe the man who lost it was given it by his dying mum. Maybe its a family heirloom.

But I think the only thing we have to go on is our best guess as to the value of what we have found.

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*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread. -sN ***

If you find a lost wallet and you can identify the owner and return it, but you instead keep the contents of the wallet for yourself, is that an act of theft?

I have not found a lost wallet; instead, I lost my own wallet, and I not only know that someone found it, but I know who found it, and the person does not return my calls or emails. Is this person stealing my wallet, or does the fact that I lost it make it fair game?

Edited by softwareNerd

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I think theft also includes the act of taking, so I'm not sure it's theft, but it is most certainly immoral and unjust for them to not even make an effort to return it. A found wallet is most certainly not fair game.

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If the property has a clearly identified owner then I would say its theft to keep(barring something strange such as them having left the country without an address).

Suppose your car rolls down a hill into your neighbor's yard, does it become his car?

Edited by mmmcannibalism

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*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread. -sN ***

If you find a lost wallet and you can identify the owner and return it, but you instead keep the contents of the wallet for yourself, is that an act of theft?

I have not found a lost wallet; instead, I lost my own wallet, and I not only know that someone found it, but I know who found it, and the person does not return my calls or emails. Is this person stealing my wallet, or does the fact that I lost it make it fair game?

Yes, he is, both according to Oism and all legal systems I'm familiar with. While you should try to resolve this first, if all else fails you have the right to call the Police.

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I think theft also includes the act of taking, so I'm not sure it's theft, but it is most certainly immoral and unjust for them to not even make an effort to return it. A found wallet is most certainly not fair game.

I would probably open the wallet and find out who it belonged to, and then Google them. If they weren't an enemy of mine, sure, I'd try to contact them directly to return the wallet, and make sure not to take anything out of it. I wouldn't hand it in to the local precinct, tho' -- I wonder, who really did abscond with the $30?

- ico

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This has happened to me a few times. I've found credit cards, wallets, cash, and drivers licences on the ground. Whenever possible, I get in contact with the owner, because as someone else said, I would want another person to do the same. Years ago I was a manager of a Taco Bell, and a customer had left his credit card at the counter. I wasn't working in that area, but an apparently theft inclined person was. We had a policy in the store that if you wanted some cash, you could run your own card through the machine, charge however much you wanted to exchange for cash, and simply replace the receipt for the cash in the register. Evidently this employee decided to do that with this customers card. When I was tallying up the totals for the night to put in the nearby bank, I came across a receipt for $120. I couldn't recall making an order that large, so I set it aside and kept counting. I found three more, all with the same credit card numbers, for amounts over $100. I called the credit card company, informed them of what I had found, the individual was fired and the customer decided to not pursue the problem at all aside from getting his card. Bad part is, if the employee was swiping the customers card had kept the amounts around $10, I would have never noticed.

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I'll give you an example of something that happened in Oslo, the capital of Norway, like a year back or so.

According to the press, a woman found an unmarked envelope with about 8000 euros in it left at a seat on some sort of inner city public transportation. She gave it to the conductor and said she had found it.

Now this seems like the "right" thing to do in the first place I guess, but when you give it some thought I doubt it is and I probably would have taken the money.

First of, Norwegian law says that if the money is not claimed within three months the state gets 66% and the finder get 33%.

However obviously anyone claiming the money would have to explain why they where carrying 8000 euros around (which is not the local currency), and since it was probably some sort of criminal transaction gone wrong its very unlikely that someone would actually come to the police station and claim it.

When it comes to the "I would want others to do the same for me" argument it does not really apply, as I would never carry around 8000 euros on public transportation (why take public transportation if you've got that kinda money to begin with?) and certainly wouldnt lose it.

It also seems much more in my interest to keep 100% then forfeiting 66% to the government.

Then as in all moral questions its highly contextual. If I found someones wallet I would obviously try to track down the owner through creditcards/etc in that wallet - however if I should find a suitcase with one million dollars along with a credit card abandoned on the streets I would probably keep it (all though that prospect is highly unlikely and obviously not that relevant in this debate).

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@Lasse - regarding your last situation about context:

Say, for instance, that you find a suitcase with 1 million dollars along with a credit card. You know very well that you can track down the person (through the name on the credit card, authorities, accounts associated, etc.) and return the money without much difficulty. Assuming, of course, that the credit card was in the suitcase or you knew otherwise that there's a 100% probability that the card and money were connected to the same person.

Now taking that same assumption, switch a credit card with a strand of hair. You notice the strand of hair and KNOW without a doubt it belongs to the man to whom the money belongs. You CAN trace the hair (through DNA, databases, etc.) to find this man, but it's awfully difficult in comparison to the credit card. In fact, the work is greater than the reward, let's say.

Is it moral to neglect the piece of hair, knowing that it's possible to return it to its owner? Are you morally obligated to go through any means necessary to return the suitcase? Is that a moral choice you make by picking up the suitcase?

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Is it moral to neglect the piece of hair,...
Under most legal systems, you take the suitcase to some government agency -- typically the police. The presumption is that the guy who lost it would contact the police as well. They can then match the hair to the guy (maybe he pays for the matching :) ) and the whole thing is closed with little cost.

Now, if you know it is drug money or something like that where the owner will never claim it, that's quite different.

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Now taking that same assumption, switch a credit card with a strand of hair. You notice the strand of hair and KNOW without a doubt it belongs to the man to whom the money belongs. You CAN trace the hair (through DNA, databases, etc.)...

- Im not quite sure I understand what you mean, given that I already stated I would probably keep the suitcase with the million even if it did contain a credit card or something similar to easily identify its owner I would probably keep it (because the amount of money is contextually relevant), so it would then seem somewhat clear that I certainly would not advocate going through alot of trouble investigating into whom the owner may be?

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I once found 50$ in the ATM of a Hotel that someone had forgotten to put into his wallet before he left. I left it at the Hotel reception, hoping that the person would give it to the owner if he asked. And, yes I did it to promote altruism, so someone would do the same for me in case it happened to me. :pimp:

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Guest Adeona

Just because you have lost something doesn't mean it isn't yours anymore. For example, right now I have no idea where my TV remote is. But if my roommate finds it, it doesn't become his remote. If he keeps it, then it is theft. If he honestly tries to find the owner, fails, and keeps the remote, it’s still theft.

The reason you can pick coins up with impunity is not because it isn't theft, it’s because very few people have the time of day to find you and prosecute you for such a crime. But try picking a 1970-S Small Date Lincoln Cent with a Doubled Die Obverse off the ground, and if the owner knows what it is that he’s lost, you can bet your two front teeth he’ll try to get you for theft if he finds you and you don’t return it.

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The reason you can pick coins up with impunity is not because it isn't theft, it’s because very few people have the time of day to find you and prosecute you for such a crime. But try picking a 1970-S Small Date Lincoln Cent with a Doubled Die Obverse off the ground, and if the owner knows what it is that he’s lost, you can bet your two front teeth he’ll try to get you for theft if he finds you and you don’t return it.

Come on, you can do better than this. The 1971 S doubled die is worth ten times as much (albeit existing only as a proof), as is the 1972 doubled die--700 bucks vs. 70. And the 1955 doubled die in high grade breaks five figures.

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