Lost and Found! What To Do If You Find Stuff On The Street

Originally posted on May 27, 2022 3:00 pm
Updated on May 24, 2022 2:13 pm

Let’s face it, people lose stuff in New York all the time. Phones, wallets, keys, and your sanity often end up on the sidewalk, never to be seen again. But what if you find someone else’s stuff in public? You want to set a good example and do the right thing to make your mother proud. Only one problem: You don’t know what to do when you find stuff on the sidewalk! Well never fear, RentHop is here, and we have the answers for frequently asked questions about stuff you find on the street!

What do I do if I find a phone or wallet on the street?

The easy answer for this is to contact the police non-emergency number and ask them how you should proceed. Usually they’ll send an officer to pick up the lost item or have you bring it to the closest precinct. That said, the easy way isn’t the fun way. The fun way is you doing some detective work and finding the person yourself. This could lead to a new friend, or even a meet-cute! It’ll also make it more likely that the lost item will find its way home because the police are under no obligation to try and find the person who lost the item.

If you find a phone on the ground, check for contact info on the device. Some people put a physical slip of paper in their phone case with contact info, but Apple and Android devices have a feature that allows contact info to be accessed from a locked phone via the “Emergency” button. If Voice Assistant is activated, you can probably also make a call to a friend or family member and explain that you’re a good samaritan and not seeking a ransom for a kidnapping. If either of those first options fail, see what carrier the phone is with (usually available on the lock screen) and take it to a nearby store so they can contact the owner. Just like that, you’re a hero.

When it comes to wallets and money, NYC has a kind of “finders keepers” style of handling it. If you take a wallet or cash to the police, people have a set amount of time to claim it. That said, that amount of time is insanely long. You have to wait three months for amounts less than $100, which is too long. Instead, we recommend doing the fun things again and searching for contact info in the wallet. A driver’s license or ID will allow you to look up the poor individual, and then you can meet in person without ever dealing with the police.

What do I do if I find a phone or wallet in the subway?

If you find it on the platform, just see the above steps. If you find it on the tracks DO NOT GO DOWN AND GET IT!!! That’s a good way to get hit by a train, and New Yorkers have had enough of that nonsense. Instead of possibly dying, tell the booth agent about the item. An MTA employee will eventually come pick it up. You can then fill out a form with your info on it, and they’ll contact you when you can pick it up. You can also call 511 for an update on the item’s status. Once you have the item, follow the above instructions. 

What do I do if I find a lost or stray pet?

This one is a doozy. Finding a lost pet isn’t pet isn’t like finding a lost phone or wallet, especially since said phone or wallet cannot run away from you. First and foremost, if you see it wearing a collar or tags, try and catch the little rascal. If you can, great! Call the number on the tag and make the day of a small child. If you can’t, don’t fret. Look for signs featuring the lost animal and call the number on them. This way, the owners will know where to start looking.

If the dog or cat or lizard has no tags, call 311 or Animal Care & Control at (212) 257-8589. If the animal is tagged, they will be able to help track the owner down. If the animal isn’t tagged, and is a true stray, then maybe you can adopt it once it gets its shots! Be warned, if an animal is acting erratic or threatening, call 911, especially if it’s eyeing you.

What if I lose something in the street or on the subway?

I’m not going to lie to you…it’s not super likely that you’ll be getting it back. You can file a report with the police, the MTA, or 311. However, the sad fact is that most items in NYC don’t go back to their owners. They either get picked up by opportunists or left to become part of the trash problem. That said, there’s still hope, but only if you report your missing items. Many people never report lost wallets or phones, assuming that they have been absorbed by the concrete. But you have a small chance if a report is made. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Things get lost in New York City all the time. In all the glamor and bright lights, it’s easy to lose track of your stuff. You’d want a kind soul to return your lost items, so it’s only fair that you return items you find to the best of your ability. While your first instinct might be to take it to the police, it’s usually possible and quicker to just search for the person yourself. Just make sure not to invade anyone’s personal space in the process. Remember, wallets should be returned with all the money that was found in them. If you can’t find whoever lost the item, at least you know you tried. Plus, maybe your good deed will inspire others to do the same.

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