The bank credits your account for $1,000 more
than you deposited. For once you've pulled that sweet Monopoly card in real life,
"Bank error in your favor." Ka-ching!
Despite the overwhelming justification for why the universe owes
you this money, it's as untouchable as a spanking-new sports car with the keys
in the ignition and the doors wide open. Give in to temptation and you could find
yourself going straight to jail -- or at least being threatened with jail if you
don't want to part with the ill-gotten gains.
According to the district attorney's office in Walworth
County, Wis., a man was charged with theft when a check for more than $49,000
was accidentally deposited into his account at Fifth Third Bank. "He was having
financial difficulties so he spent it," Walworth County district attorney Phillip
Koss says. "When the bank asked for it back, he put them off. But when he was
charged with theft he came up with the money."
Besides having to cough up the misappropriated funds,
he also paid a $500 fine.
Mistakes will always happen. "Due to the sheer volume
of transactions that go through here every day, it does happen that
sometimes mistakes are made -- sometimes 'unjust enrichment' as
it's called, or overcredits. But, undercredits can happen as well,"
says Stephanie Honan, a spokeswoman for Fifth Third Bank.
"We generally find out about them through our internal
checks and balances, or the customer brings it to our attention.
After that, we work with them directly to correct the account. In
the case of undercredits we pay any fees they may have incurred
due to the oversight."
In most cases, bank errors don't lead to arrests,
merely hassles and headaches.
In the case of Gloria Pedroza, the mistakes led to
her finding a new bank. "Errors were made about every other month,"
she says. "There were at least three cash deposits that weren't
credited and one that was overcredited." Luckily, the bank recognized
the mistakes and credited her account for the fees from bounced
checks written against the lost deposits.
The overcredit was the last straw for Pedroza. "I
deposited money and my account was credited double the amount of
the deposit," she says. "I called the bank to correct it, the person
on the phone told me not to use those funds because they were not
why I called. And then it took the bank almost four business days to correct it.
It was a nightmare, and I was paying for this service," says Pedroza.
this under 'don't hold your breath'
Once in a blue moon, banks make
a mistake and, due to some inexplicable shift in the universe, let the customer
walk off a little bit richer. Such was the case for Thomas Grosch.
Back in the late 1950s, well before automation, Grosch
opened an account at a well-known national bank, at a Sacramento
branch. "This was only in case I needed lunch money when temporarily
working in that city," he says.
When he returned
to withdraw $20, the account had doubled in size. "I pointed this out to clerk
at bank window. She checked and claimed all was in order," Grosch says.
few months went by and, I returned to bank. The small account had grown by 300
percent. The teller insisted all was in order; hence I spoke with the branch manager
who also said my account was without error.
"When the account
got to $3,000, the manager told me that if it happened again I should close the
account and pay for our lunch.
"Again, I returned to the branch
and there was almost $9,000 in my account. We had a grand lunch. The bank manager
continued to insist there was no bank error and he had thoroughly researched the
account. He believed I was entering cash into my account."
closed the account, pocketed the money and lived happily ever after, until he
received a phone call a few years later. "It was the bank branch manager who was
retiring," Grosch says. "He told me that an elderly fellow with the same name
as mine had passed away a week previous. He had died at 99 years of age. The banker
assumed that this was the person entering money to my account."
the end of the conversation, the manager told Grosch not to worry about the money.
He had conferred with the man's beneficiary who was pleased with what she inherited.
The inadvertent mix-up even led to a meeting between Grosch and the deceased's
beneficiary to discuss the strange coincidence.