Man Becomes Viral Meme, Flooded With Imposter Accounts After Losing Wallet

The internet is no stranger to creating memes and viral sagas out of seemingly everyday encounters. This time, a man named Gary Lee became the focus of a TikTok-wide meme after he lost his wallet at Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York.

Luckily for Lee, his wallet was found by TikTok user @senasoup, who swiftly posted her find to her account, and unknowingly started a viral trend.

"Gary Lee, please DM, I found your wallet," said the text-to-speech generator as @senasoup showed the wallet and ID, covering his personal information.

The video, which can be seen here, has since racked up over 30 million views since being shared on August 26 and has over 5 million likes.

But there was nothing particularly interesting about the wallet, ID or video itself. Instead, it was the reaction across TikTok users that caused it to reach meme-levels.

The comments were flooded with TikTok users changing their pictures to Lee's driver's license photo, often appearing slightly edited while some even changed their usernames. A quick browse through the comments shows only profile pictures of Lee's driver's license photo.

Comments jokingly claimed to be relatives or friends of Lee, promising a safe return of the wallet if they hand it to them.

"This is Gary Lee's mom. I will give it to my son. Thank you dear," commented TikTok user @garyleesmom.

Despite claims from users named @gary.lee.real or @garylee_real_trustme, the real Gary Lee is a 33-year-old from Brooklyn who works in sales.

"I thought it was the funniest thing ever having all these people pose as me even going as far as changing their profile picture, some editing my driver's license," Lee told Newsweek.

"It's been crazy. I was excited to see someone actually found my wallet. My friend had let me know that it was posted on TikTok," he said.

His wallet was also rightfully returned to him, and of course documented in a TikTok video too. Lee made his own TikTok account (@therealgarylee5) and contacted @senasoup, arranging to meet in Manhattan's East Village.

"I created one [TikTok account] to get in contact with the girl. We exchanged info, obviously verifying all the content in the wallet," explained Lee.

In a video posted two days later, @senasoup filmed the wallet being returned to Lee, writing: "We found the real Gary Lee."

"Thank you man, I appreciate it," said Lee in the clip, before handing over his "lucky $100 bill" as a token of appreciation.

@senasoup

THE REAL GARY LEE REVEAL. The wallet has been returned @therealgarylee5 @rivingtonstreet #newyorkcity

♬ Tokyo Drift - Xavier Wulf

Over 5 million viewers watched the final segment of the lost wallet saga, and the memes didn't stop there. Comments were filled with users claiming that the TikTok user had given the wallet to the wrong person. "Hey, no, he scammed you," wrote one user.

"What in the multiverse is going on. He is pretending to be me," added another.

Although finding yourself at the center of a meme storm and influx of accounts pretending to be everyone you've ever known may be a strange occurrence, Lee said he found the whole thing funny, but is unable to pick his favorite comment of them all.

"I can't name one. I've got my 'whole family' on there," he joked.

Newsweek has contacted @senasoup for comment.

Gary Lee holding ID up to face
Gary Lee and his ID that sparked TikTok memes. Gary Lee

Update 9/6/21, 3:11 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comments from Gary Lee.