In real life, Joey Coyle and the mobster did not force the car into water, but simply drove to New Jersey and abandoned it. Also, in real life, three people saw Coyle find and take the money, unlike in the movie where the movie Coyle does stop to check to see if anyone was around when he found the money and sees nobody (in fact in the movie a homeless boy saw him, but was hidden from view).
Joey Coyle did not live with his brother in real life. However, he fall through a ceiling when trying to hide the money. Other scenes with basis in reality include the policeman asking to be locked in the van to test its strength.
A full non-fiction account of this story was written in 2002, titled Finders Keepers by Mark Bowden. Finders Keepers was a working title Mark Bowden used for this film, but was subsequently changed to Money For Nothing.
The reporter in the movie is named Lois Bowden. Lois Bowden is the mother of writer Mark Bowden. However, the anchor mispronounces "Bow" in "Bowden" like a "bow tie", when in real life Mark Bowden pronounces his surname, like a stage bow.