What Do You Do When the Bank Makes an Error in Your Favor?

In case you hadn’t heard, a New Zealand bank accidentally deposited $10 million in a couple’s business account. They promptly withdrew the money and are now on the run. What would you do if this happened to you? What would you do if it was $10?

A True Tale of a Bank Error Biting Back

I actually knew a guy in college who received a $7,000 deposit courtesy of a bank error. He chose to withdraw the money and spend a semester abroad. The bank found him and demanded the money, but he’d already spent it. A couple years later, he received an arrest warrant in the mail at his new address across the country. He was given an option: pay it back and have his record expunged, or go to prison. He chose to pay it back, but it took him the entire summer working round-the-clock to raise the money by the court-imposed deadline.

Would You Take the $10 Million?

I wouldn’t, but I’m honest. In addition, I know the bank would catch up with me pretty quickly, and I’m not that good at hiding. You’d have to sever contact with everyone you know and love. You’d have to change your identity. Both of those are worth more to me than money.

In fact, I had another friend who embezzled a large sum and is currently on the run. We expect never to hear from her again, and if we do we will turn her in. On the one hand, I understand her decision to avoid prison. On the other hand, I can’t fathom never speaking to my parents or sister again. I also can’t fathom spending the rest of my life looking over my shoulder.

Note: I really do have decent friends. Everyone knows a couple bad apples. Mine both just happened to involve theft!

Would You Take $10?

This is where it gets tricky. Most people would know not to take $10 million. That is clear theft. But what it’s a small amount? $10, $1, a dime? What do you do then?

I have had a bank make small errors like that on my behalf. Most of them time I left them alone because I knew the bank would eventually reverse it. I didn’t want to risk going into overdraft when they did.

I’ve also received an extra dollar or two in change at the grocery store and said nothing. I probably should have, but I didn’t.

The most recent error of the kind happened at the movie theater. We had a coupon for $6 tickets ($12 each normally), but this particular theater had a $2 surcharge. When the ticket seller ran our credit card, he only charged us for the surcharge, so our total was $4 rather than $16. We didn’t realize it until we got home, but we didn’t bother to go back and correct it. We probably should have, but we found a way to justify it to ourselves.

Where Do You Draw the Line?

So where do you draw the line? Do you always alert the bank to errors? Do you always return to the store to give back an overage? Would you take the $10 million and run?

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