A malfunctioning Bank of America ATM in Texas dispensed $100 bills instead of $10 bills, with people eager for an extra helping of cash swarming the machine, sparking several fights.
Authorities in north Harris County said when a customer proceeded to withdraw $20 on Sunday, Nov. 25, at around 11 p.m., the machine instead disbursed a $100 bill, Houston’s KPRC-TV reported. Deputies said that a crowd rushed to take advantage of the malfunctioning ATM after the man wrote on social media about his unexpected windfall.
“The line was massive,” Gundy added, “[people] trying to come in and get a lot of cash.”
The station reported that a number of fights broke out as people waited in line to capitalize on the ATM glitch. Police arrived about two hours after the commotion began and put an end to the illicit bonanza.
No one was arrested and in an extraordinary turn of events, the Bank of America let customers keep the money.
“This was an incident at a single ATM in Houston caused when a vendor incorrectly loaded $100 bills in place of $10 bills. We have resolved the matter. Customers will be able to keep the additional money dispensed,” the company said.
Standard practice is for a bank to send a letter demanding repayment to anyone who overdraws from an ATM. If the beneficiary of the glitch ignores the bank’s calls to return the mistakenly dispensed funds, deputies may open an investigation on suspicion of theft.
‘No Free Lunch’
Law enforcement told Click2Houston that if the bank had asked for the money back, criminal charges could have been filed.
“There’s no free lunch. If you receive money that you know it is not yours, and you refuse to give it back upon demand, you can, at the discretion of the district attorney, be charged with theft,” Sgt. Joshua Nowick of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office told the station.
Several years ago, a Georgia teen found his bank had accidentally deposited over $30,000 into his account, according to CBS, and the 18-year-old spent most of the money on a BMW.
Madison County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Shawn Burns told reporters at the Athens-Banner Herald that Steven Fields first withdrew $20,000 of the erroneously deposited cash and later spent another $5,000 with his ATM card.
Fields was eventually informed of the mistake by the bank and was asked to return the money.
“He eventually admitted the money wasn’t his, but he couldn’t pay it back,” Burns said, adding that Fields was charged with felony theft and received a 10-year sentence.
Doug Johnson, senior vice president for payments and cybersecurity policy at the American Bankers Association, told NBC news that keeping money from an accidental deposit or overdraft is against the law and could have unpleasant consequences.
“‘Don’t keep it,’ is the firm advice,” Johnson said, according to the report. “Eventually, the bank will come back to the customer. First, they’ll reverse the transaction but also potentially generate a police report after effective research, meaning the bank will contact the customer … and ask the logical questions: Did they notice that it was inadvertently deposited, why didn’t they alert the bank, why didn’t they return the funds. It creates a whole confluence of events that are not attractive.”