COVID Relief Funds Sent in Error

A man who accidentally received three hundred thousand dollars doesn’t want to give it back. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

Four hundred sixty-three residents of a small town in Japan were each supposed to get a seven hundred eighty-one dollar COVID relief check. The government there accidentally sent all the money to one guy. That’s about three hundred sixty thousand dollars, all but seven hundred eighty-one of it, in error. 

When Japanese officials tried to get it back, the man said cryptically: it cannot be undone. Uh, yeah it can. Give it back! At least that’s what the law in the U.S. would require. If you win the lottery, it’s yours. But if you get a windfall by mistake—which actually happens much more often than winning the lottery because companies regularly overpay an employee by mistake and banks do make errors—it’s not yours to keep. You didn’t steal it to get it into your account, but you’re committing theft if you keep it.  

Sorry, fella. Time to undo it before your neighbors start knocking on your door.

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