What are the ethics of giving back money that doesn't belong to you?

By Kate Padgett Walsh

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As far as moral obligations go regarding errors in monetary transactions, certain religions teach that if a person is given an incorrect amount in a transaction, even deliberately, and does not notice or protest, nothing improper has occurred.

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I think in Japan is illegal to keep money you found on the street for example. You give it to the police, and if nobody claims it for xx days (I think it was one month), they call you and you can keep it.

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Finally, a useful and thought-provoking article posted from The Conversation. Bravo, JT!

On topic, if you erroneously receive money or any other property and don't make reasonable efforts to inform the rightful the owner or return the property, that's theft. The principle is pretty simple really, and adding levels of moral relativity can have us heading into murky waters.

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Prima facie, it depends on your likelihood of getting caught.

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Any amount that has a good chance of going missing and/or is feasible to track down, I would absolutely return or turn over to the authorities. That includes large sums of money, credit cards, or any sum of money in a wallet (especialyl if there was ID attached).

Something like a 100 or 500 yen coin lying on the ground? I would probably keep, it is exceptionally unlikely the original owner would even notice it missing or try to report it, and even less likely they would do so in the right area. The exception would be if I saw someone actually drop it, I would try to chase them down probably.

In the case of a mistaken transaction, I almost always go back to try to correct the transaction. Not that I particularly care for the finances of the 7/11 that undercharged me, but I don't want it taken out on the cashier who made the mistake.

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One day I found a bag on a bench when we went shopping. Contained money and bank books. Took it to the nearby koban. Regreted that because it took too long to deal with. More than one hour.

Another time I stepped off a bus and found a ¥2000 yen note on the ground. Picked it up looked around, no one just kept it and silently thanked the loser for the gift.

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Interesting read with good reflections on the current situation in the world, makes you think about what is actually correct, and why.

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In Japan, it is not a question.

Most others in the civilized world would return it.

If you’re dirt poor and on the verge of starvation, you’re probably keeping it.

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