This article on CNN caught my eye the other day. It’s about an “Accidental Millionaire” who discovered that a keying error by his bank resulted in him having a $10,000,000 line of credit instead of a $100,000 line of credit. Instead of notifying the bank of the error, he withdrew 6.8 Million of it, disbursed the money into overseas accounts and then promptly fled the country. About 2 and a half years later, he was caught and brought back to New Zealand to stand trial for his theft.
The whole thing brings up an interesting question though. Obviously, the right thing to do would be to notify the bank of the error, so that it could be fixed and all could continue on their way. And, I think it’s fair to say, most of us would do just that. But, what if it was for such a high amount of money? Sure, if the bank makes a $10,000 error, you’ll let them know. But, what if they make a $10,000,000 error? Just how tempting would it be to do just like this guy did, take the money out and put it into overseas accounts where it couldn’t be recovered by the bank, and make a run for it? Even if you knew you could make it 2.5 years before getting caught, would it be worth it to live like a multi-millionaire for that amount of time?
I think that the penalty would likely be high, and will likely involve some jail time, but would all that be worth living the rich life for a few years?
I can’t see where it would be for me, personally. But, obviously, for this guy, the answer was that it would be worth it. Or, maybe he truly thought he could get away and not get caught. I’m not sure how one really thinks that they’ll be able to get away with something like that. But, he obviously did, or at least thought the trade off was worth the possible penalty.
Me, I’ll settle for making my money the old fashioned way, and making it work for me. The trade-off of not making it as fast as he did, but staying out of jail is well worth it.
What are your thoughts on that. Would you trade a few years of living as a millionaire on the run be worth the possible penalties?
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Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I’d get right on the phone and tell the bank what had happened. The big reason being that it’s the right thing to do (regardless of the amount) and I don’t need that knock against my karma or on my conscience. I wouldn’t trade any amount of money for the loss of freedom. Nothing in the world could possibly be worth it in my eyes.
if the bank did the opposite and made an error in their own favor, people would be up on their soapboxes screaming bloody murder, so to take the money would be plain hypocritical,
Tackling Our Debt says
I read a similar article yesterday about a man that found a lot of extra money in his account 2 years ago and gambled it all away. He is now in court as well.
Talk about letting the bank know they made an error but how many times have you heard of people saying that they told the bank they made an error and the bank disagrees, saying they never make errors.
Anyways, I wouldn’t keep the money. I would feel overwhelmed with guilt and that is no way to live, long term or short term.
Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths says
Having seen a few people get in trouble with banks, I would either leave things the way they were and wait for the bank to clear it or notify the bank.
I have always said that a true test of character is tested when no one is around. If this happened to me, I would advise the bank as soon as I was aware of it. In this particular case, I have control of whether I use it or not.
Money Beagle says
This is far too big a sum to get away with. I could never do it with any amount. I once got paid for a few pay periods after I got let go from a job. I ended up getting to keep a portion of it because I had contacted HR all along the way asking them to correct the error, so when they finally got around to it, I was able to use that as a way to keep some of the money for my troubles.
And have to spend your life looking over your shoulder? Never getting a good night’s rest? No, thank you, I’ll take the high road.
I’d collect my money, roll again and hope not to roll doubles for the third time in a row and go to jail… If I wasn’t playing monopoly I would notify the bank. It is the right thing to do.
Andrea @SoOverDebt says
I have a friend from high school whose mom embezzled millions of dollars from the company she worked for over a period of about 20 years. She managed to get out of the country before she got caught, and no one knows where she is (or at least not that they’ll admit). It’s been probably 6-7 years since it hit the newspapers, so I guess you could say she’s gotten away with it so far. I’m sure she’s living it up somewhere with all her money. But she can’t see her grandkids or have contact with her kids, she can’t visit her parents (who are both in a nursing home now) or call them on the phone….
Yeah, I think I’ll stick with my little teeny income. Millions would be nice, but not if I have to abandon my family and my life to get them.
I would probably be so freaked out that I would phone the bank sobbing while saying “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???!! fix it NOW”
I wouldn’t touch it, that’s an unimaginable large sum for me!
I would definitely tell them. It’s not worth risking everything.
Jai Catalano says
As fun as that might seem I am not interested in being given a mistake gift and then for me to find myself in bigger trouble for it. However it would be fun to take it for a few days to boost.
Super interesting question. I’d be tempted for sure. But in the long-term it wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe if I had some terminal illness and a crystal ball that told me I’d live for 2.4 more years and they wouldn’t catch up with me for another 2.5. But in real life, I’d never do it.
Jen @ Master the Art of Saving says
It sure would be tempting, but I’d end up telling the bank. I’d feel too guilty to enjoy the money anyway.
I wonder if they would let me keep the interest on it until they caught the mistake?!?! In that case, I might be a little slow to report it…. LOL
No– I would tell them right away. Funny and true story I have— Our daughter went to live in California a few years ago, and we asked our bank for a debit card for her in case she needed money, and they gave us one. We did not figure out until after she had withdrawn about a thousand dollars that the money was not coming out of our account. Seems there is another guy with the same name as my husband down in Cincinnati….who obviously did not keep track of his account….. the lady at the bank who gave us the card was actually sort of snippy with us at first, until she realized how badly she had screwed up. We now have a banker friend for life.