It all started last Friday with a tweet. An anonymous California man—in a CNN interview he identifies himself as a real estate investor between ages 35 and 45— began hiding envelopes of cash around the Bay Area and tweeting out clues under the handle @HiddenCash. "Drops" have grown to over $100 as his following has ballooned to more than 340,000 followers on Twitter and, in the course of a week, he has moved from San Francisco to San Jose to, most recently, Los Angeles.
You'll find white swans here; and, if you're lucky, a white envelope. (Too easy???) pic.twitter.com/xBgzQZSAS2
— Hidden Cash (@HiddenCash) May 27, 2014
The social media-driven scavenger hunt, which includes pictures and clues, has become a sensation. Most drops are found in mere minutes and the winner often poses not just with the cash but also broadcasters and news reporters who rush to the scene.
In a voice-only interview with KTVU, the wealthy benefactor clarified that he often donated money to charity in a more traditional way, but that @HiddenCash is intended to “put a smile on someone’s face” and hopefully encourage them to "pay it forward." The lucky Californians have been eager to follow his advice, tweeting their plans to share it with friends, family, and coworkers.
— KGO Radio (@kgoradio) May 27, 2014
The account has become more interactive as it's grown, asking followers to weigh in on how the money should be divided up and what other prizes they want to scavenge for.
Next up: Travel scholarship? Or Burning Man tickets? You vote.
No more drops in LA til tomorrow afternoon.
— Hidden Cash (@HiddenCash) May 29, 2014
Earlier today, the account tweeted out a link to a longer message, which addressed some issues—like the flood of emails he has received since starting the project asking for direct financial assistance—and teased the upcoming "big announcement we've mentioned previously (don't worry, you'll like this)." The note also announced a "media blackout on all interviews in any form for the next couple weeks," but quickly responded to concerns to clarify that this does not mean the project itself will go on hiatus. He mentions the cynical response some people have had only in passing and concludes:
There really is no agenda here - not political, not business, not religious - other than bringing people together in a positive way and bringing a smile to people's faces. And, in some cases, happy tears, like the teenage girl tonight who is sending the money she found to her sick grandmother in Mexico. I am so happy that my money is going to help deserving people like this.
And if you're in LA, check Twitter—the next drop could be coming any minute now.