Depositing and withdrawing money at banks in China has now become a treacherous undertaking, given that the machines relied upon to count the bills can come with a particularly deceptive augmentation: some of them can eat the bills.
This was demonstrated in an online video in China that has gone viral recently.
A man, speaking in Chinese, explains the demonstration. First, he passes 40 bills through the counter. The machine spits out the bills and the display shows that 40 bills have been counted. This process is repeated again. And again, 40 bills are counted.
Now, the man takes out a remote control, pushes a bottom on it, and uses the machine to count the bills again. But this time, the display shows 30 bills have been counted. The man takes all the bills spit out by the machine and runs the bills through the machine again. This time, the display shows 24 bills.
As the man collects all the bills and runs them through the machine again and again, the number of bills is continually depleted—22, 18, 16, 13, 12, 11 and finally 10.
To make his point that the machine was not malfunctioning, he counts the remainder with his hands: only 10 remain.
The mysterious disappearance of bills becomes clear when the man turns the machine around to reveal a secret compartment, hiding all the bills snatched from the wad.
Apple Daily, a newspaper in Hong Kong, sought out bill counter retailers and asked if it was possible to modify the bill counters—it turned out that it was not, particularly. The sensor for counting the bills can be manipulated, and a gap created within bill counters for bills to fall through, thus having fewer bills as bills were counted again and again.
The remote sensor could simply adjust the size of the gap—so, a man controlling the machine could decide how much money he would like the bill counter to eat up, according to Apple Daily.
There have not been any reported cases of people finding that they were shortchanged by bank tellers who used a modified bill counting machine to suck up notes. Nevertheless, the manipulated bill counter struck a nerve among Chinese Internet users. One asked: “So, can the same thing happen at an ATM?”