The anonymous donor who sparked a frenzied scavenger hunt for cash by hiding large sums in public venues around California came forward Tuesday to talk about his creative act of charity.
Jason Buzi, a real estate investor originally from Haifa, said he began planting money, and tweeting out clues about their location, as a fun way to donate money to his community.
“A couple weeks ago, I got together with some friends and we were talking about our desire to give back and do it in a fun way,” Buzi told CNN.
According to Buzi’s Facebook profile, the wealthy real estate investor and entrepreneur was born in Israel and speaks Hebrew.
He is known around the Palo Alto area for unorthodox business practices, including leaving notes in mailboxes that he would like to buy people’s houses.
In 2008, he was apparently involved in a cash giveaway gone awry when he hid money in tomato boxes in New York City, leading to a riot that had be broken up by police, NBC reported.
This time, though, Buzi and his friends settled upon another idea: “What if we just leave cash around, and do a website and kind of tell people, give them clues where it is?” he said.
They began posting clues on Twitter last month about the whereabouts of the money they had hidden in public places under the handle @HiddenCash.
Their tweets turned positively golden in San Francisco, with residents whipped into a lather as they hunted for the loot.
Clues led to money stashed in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, Palace of Fine Arts, near the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and other venues around the Bay Area.
“New SF drop: find Mr. Franklin along the ‘crookedest street’ (towards the bottom),” read one clue that locals immediately understood to mean a hundred dollar bill had been stashed on San Francisco’s famously winding Lombard Street.
Another scavenger hunt was launched for residents of Los Angeles, and Buzi said he’s weighing starting similar acts of philanthropy elsewhere.
“The interesting thing that’s happened in the last couple weeks, since we started, is now we have several hundred copycats in different states and cities around the country,” he said.
Buzi said another unexpected bonus is that people appear to be having lots of fun as they scour their towns and cities.
“People are just saying they’re enjoying getting out — and, of course, it works for us that the weather’s been so nice. And especially here in California,” he said.
Still, some find the idea of free money almost too good to be true, Buzi said.
“A lot of people don’t trust the motive, thinking it’s a business scheme or something we’re trying to get out of it, and we’re really not,” he said.
“We’re really doing it to give back in a fun way.”