Lawsuit: The Bank Told Me To Spend That Mysterious $280,276.76 They Put In My Account

A retiree in Altoona, PA says that his bank told him he could spend the $280,276.76 that was mysteriously deposited in his account. He knew it wasn’t his, but the bank assured him that everything was in order and he was free to start spending.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

His checking account with First Commonwealth Bank showed an Oct. 23 deposit of $280,276.76. The Altoona retiree said he knew the staggering amount of money didn’t belong to him, or to his wife, Becky, so he called the bank — several times — to report the mistake, his attorney said.

Starbird’s attorney said the bank assured his client more than once that everything was in order, that the deposit was accurate, that all was OK with his account. So, Starbird and his wife began to spend their unexpected windfall, thinking that an anonymous benefactor had given them an awesome gift of free money.

Yeah, not quite. Now the bank is suing Herbert Starbird, claiming that he never contacted the bank. By the time the bank noticed the error, Mr. Starbird and his wife had spent $163,330.37. The bank recovered $102,935.48 that remained in Starbird’s checking account and took $14,010.91 from his savings account, according to the lawsuit. Starbird’s lawyer says that his client has been trying to pay the bank back, but doesn’t want to mortgage his house to do it and would like an interest free payment plan. The Tribune-Review says that the lawsuit shows Starbird has made two payments so far: $624.25, and $5,500.

Couple say they began spending after bank’s OK
[Pittsburgh Tribune-Review] (Thanks, Justin!)

(Photo: This Year’s Love )

Comments

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  1. Ryfael says:

    I hope this guy has that agreement in writing.

  2. smithereensblog says:

    Wow, is it evil bank day on Consumerist? lol

  3. headhot says:

    If this ever happens to me, I’m gonna take all the money out, close my account and move it to an off sure account, pulling interest on it, until the dickheads at the bank figure out what the fuck they did wrong.

    Then, if the ask real nice, I may think about giving it back, minus a maintenance fee.

  4. wgrune says:

    Yeah, unless he does have something in writing I will have to side with the bank on this one…

  5. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Maybe it was a stimulus payment from the IRS that got misdirected.

  6. ChipMcDougal says:

    @wgrune: If we was TOLD he could spend the money by the bank, how is this his fault?

    He shouldn’t have to pay a dime.

  7. MissTic says:

    too bad he didn’t record at least one of the ‘several phone calls’ they made to the bank.

  8. redpeppers20xx says:

    Why didn’t he just open a new savings account…transfer all of that money to it and let it sit for 6 months?

    If after 6 months nobody came calling for it then go talk to the bank again and say,ok..is this for real?

    If so,get something in writing from the bank.

    I’m sure..somebody just plopped $280 thousand into your bank account with no rhyme or reason?

    I like finding a $20 on the sidewalk as much as the next guy but in this case,obvioualy a gigantic screwup at the bank and to actually use this money was just careless and greedy.

    And to use $163,000! On what? I could see taking a very small amount,something you could pay back over a short time period in the event the bank comes calling for te money..like say $5000 or $10000..just to dip your toe but to go hog wild like that. Unreal.

  9. josh42042 says:

    once upon a time, one of my weekly paychecks was 10,000 over my usual pay. i didn’t alert anyone, but i didn’t spend it either. about a week later, the money dissapeared. noone at the bank ever called me to tell me about it tho.

  10. nick_r says:

    He spent $160,000 between October and February?

    Uh, yeah, that’s going to sound kinda fishy to a jury.

  11. TheDude06 says:

    3 pieces of advice for anyone who is unsure about anything:

    Get it in writing.
    Get it in writing.
    Get it in writing.

  12. @MissTic: +1. I would have everybody on tape. He’ll I’d buy a hidden camera and get THAT on tape.

  13. @TheDude06: Or on tape. Document, Document, Document.

    Seriously, why does this stuff NEVER happen to me? I can tell you right now what I would spend money on. The rest would go in a cd or something.

  14. “I thought it was for a reality show called Brewster’s Thousands. I kept waiting for Richard Pryor to show up, but I’m secretly glad he never did, what with all his cursing and racism and whatnot.”

    I hate it when people with no common sense try to play the victim bit.

  15. bonzombiekitty says:

    @ChipMcDougal: Because he still knew it wasn’t his money.

    The money didn’t belong to the guy and he knew it, the bank, if it ever even said “it’s your money” (which would seem odd to me, I’d think a bank would take someone saying ‘this shitload of money isn’t mine’ pretty seriously), the bank was wrong.

    If you go to a parking garage and an attendant hands you the keys to someone else’s car, it doesn’t matter how much the guy insists it’s your car; it’s not your car and you know it. Taking it would be a crime.

    That said, the person’s who this money really belongs to can probably go after the bank for their mistake.

  16. MayorBee says:

    Well, to be fair, maybe someone screwed up one of those mundane details.

  17. wgrune says:

    @ChipMcDougal:

    Exactly my point. Was he told that by the bank, or is he just saying he was told by the bank. Before I spent a dime of that money (which he knew wasn’t his, which is essentially stealing) I would have had something in writing.

    Would you run someone over with your car if a cop told you it was ok?

  18. lesbiansayswhat says:

    General rule I guess is to move banks after that so they don’t find it within their rights to just take money from you wherever whenever and actually have to take you to court to prove they’re entitled to your money they unfortunately don’t have direct access to.

  19. RandoX says:

    @wgrune:Would you run someone over with your car if a cop told you it was ok?

    No, but I don’t have a lot of ground clearance.

  20. statnut says:

    What does it say about the bank that it took them almost 4 months to notice?

  21. ChipMcDougal says:

    @wgrune: Well, I’m operating under the assumption that he’s not lying. If he is, then yes, I’d say he owes them

  22. IcarusRisen says:

    @wgrune: Only if I had it it writing.

  23. Konrad says:

    If I found three hundred grand in my bank account I’d run out, buy small digital voice recorder.
    I’d put the voice recorder in my pocket, turn it on, and walk in to the bank.
    And if they told me to keep it I’d withdraw every penny from all of my accounts and find a credit union or bank or anything where I could go in and lock my money away from 5 years.

    And then I’d go back to work and school.

  24. satoru says:

    I suppose its retards like this that believe some Nigerian prince is going to deposit large amounts of money into your account for no reason, if only you’d just put up a small deposit. Who really believes ‘anonymous donors’ put in large wads of cash into your account for no reason?

    I can’t really feel sorry for these people. I mean just look at this jewel of a quote:

    “They said they’d heard about things like that before, on TV.”

    HUH? So you saw it on TV so it must be true!?! We need to give out Darwin Awards on a preemptive basis for idiots like this.

  25. heavylee-again says:

    Jesus, Herbet; wanna buy a bridge? “Anonymous benefactors” don’t just drop $260K in to your bank account. At the very least I would have asked the bank to send me a letter telling me it was my money, but even then I probably wouldn’t have spent it. I would have moved it to a high-yield savings account or CD, and at least pocket the interest when the bank came collecting.

    How have we ended up in a world which doesn’t require personal accountability?

  26. Eldritch says:

    How could he think that WOULDN’T come to bite him in the ass?

  27. heavylee-again says:

    @satoru: HUH? So you saw it on TV so it must be true!?! We need to give out Darwin Awards on a preemptive basis for idiots like this.

    He’s a retiree, meaning he’s likely to have children and possibly grandchildren. This means he is disqualified for a Darwin Award, since he’s deficient genes have already been passed on.

    But I like your idea, although we don’t want anything to be preemptive since that might prevent death. Anticipatory Darwin Awards, FTW!

  28. Keirmeister says:

    This sounds like a story from way back. A guy had a large amount of money appear in his bank account. He contacted the bank, and they said there was no error. He tried multiple times until the bank started being rude.

    He closed his account and moved the money somewhere where they couldn’t touch it. A few months later, the bank realizes the error and tried to sue him for the money, but the guy won: He could demonstrate that he tried to resolve it in good faith, and the bank took too long (after 30 days) to fix the error.

    The guy who won this was even on TV (I think that’s how I learned about the story).

    I would assume the law that protected the guy has been amended by now, but does anyone else know if there’s a time limit banks have to realize and fix errors like this?

  29. moore850 says:

    there’s just no way the bank gave that to him in writing, that it was his money. Just because they said it was ok doesn’t mean he’s not liable for spending it… after all, it’s his own negligence for not proving where the money in fact came from in the first place.

  30. I hope one of those times he talked to the bank, that he got the ok to spend it in writing or at least taped one of the phone calls, because otherwise he’s screwed.

  31. Geekybiker says:

    Didn’t we hear about this a long time ago, or is this a completely new case? Supposedly they mixed up his account with someone much richer, but with the same name.

    Don’t know what the law says, but it I call several times and am told by the bank that it’s my money I’m inclined to believe them.

  32. bravo369 says:

    @MissTic: i’m sure he could bring up phone records to show that he called a few times. the nature of the calls would be questioned though so unless the manager tells the truth, it probably won’t help too much.

  33. jayrwasdf says:

    I thought the bank is required to act within a few weeks to correct mistakes like this.
    I once read a long writeup of someone who on a lark, dropped a “you could be getting checks like this” fake check in an ATM and wound up with 93K.

    He returned the money, but found out the bank had screwed up by not stopping the transaction within two weeks.

    Either way, the bank should make a deal with the couple, e.g. a low (no) interest loan to pay it back.
    280K and many months is a big mistake on their part.

  34. shades_of_blue says:

    If his attorney knows his shit, he’s filed a subpoena for all phone conversations under the Discovery Act. By government law, all business phone conversations much be recorded and archived for a two year period. Assuming the bank does not deny that these recorded conversations exist, I’d say that he’s legally entitled to it. And if they ‘have to recorded conversations’ then the bank will face a hefty fine from the government.

    Some idiot entered the wrong data when I transferred 11K to pay off my auto loan and after explaining to the bank that there is no way I said 16 different numbers they checked their archives, found me in the right and fixed the issue. Calls are recorded for quality assurance for a reason.

  35. shades_of_blue says:

    @shades_of_blue:

    excuse me, should be if they ‘have no recorded conversations’

  36. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Geekybiker: Frankly, then you would be acting foolish, especially with a sum that large. That deposit should have SOME sort of record behind it. Random people can’t just suddenly decide to deposit money into your account.

    Your action should be to figure out where the hell the money came from, and verify with that party that the money was indeed intended to go to you.

  37. graymulligan says:

    Common sense is the rule on something like that. Even if the bank says “nah, by all means, spend away”, I think I’d pull the money out and put it someplace else, and let it earn interest while my bank figures it out. That way, when they ask for the money back, I at least have a couple dollars interest for the snafu.

    Wonder what they bought with the $160,000 they used?

  38. Juggernaut says:

    “Starbird’s attorney said the bank assured his client more than once that everything was in order, that the deposit was accurate, that all was OK with his account.”

    If the guy has a record of making multiple calls to the bank and didn’t spend the money until after those same calls maybe he has a point. But methinks there’s a fly in the ointment…

  39. MoCo says:

    Considering that this bank overlooked $280,276.76 for four months, I wonder how many $1000, $2000, and $10,000 errors are still lurking in their books.

  40. Devidence says:

    Come on people, would you really spend $163,330.37 of money that “mysteriously” showed up in your account?

    People are very stupid sometimes.

  41. @bonzombiekitty: “If you go to a parking garage and an attendant hands you the keys to someone else’s car, it doesn’t matter how much the guy insists it’s your car; it’s not your car and you know it. Taking it would be a crime.”

    OK, how about this. Someone comes and drops off a car in your driveway and then hands you the keys and a title. In essence, that’s what happened. They put the money in his personal account, and told him time and time again that it was his. They didn’t freeze the account, so he had access to it, just like a set of keys. If Publishers Clearing House came to your door with a check and said it’s yours, it still is yours.

  42. @graymulligan: Penny whistles and ribbon candy?

  43. @Devidence: I would spend 8,000 of it. That’s what it will cost to have the two teeth I lost replaced. Let’s see em rip the titanium sockets from my jawbone!

  44. cmdrsass says:

    @ChipMcDougal: He knew it wasn’t his money to spend, but he spent it anyway. Repeat after me: “He knew it wasn’t his money to spend, but he spent it anyway”

  45. bonzombiekitty says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: The reason publisher’s clearing house can come to your door and hand you a check is because it’s THEIR money and part of a contest you entered. People don’t just come around giving huge amounts of money unless you entered a contest or something similar. And if some random person dropped off a car unsolicited, you’d be damn sure I’d be checking to make sure that car is actually mine.

    The bank does not really own the money, the money belongs to other people – the bank is just managing it for them. It’s more like a parking garage (in my analogy) than a driveway. If a bank misdirects your deposit into my account, they have deposited your money in my account. If I know that money isn’t mine, I shouldn’t be touching it.

    People do not randomly deposit huge sums of money into random people’s bank accounts.

  46. bonzombiekitty says:

    @graymulligan: If it’s the same story as the one not too long ago, he used it to pay off debts or something.

  47. kalikidtx says:

    besides subpoena-ing the phone calls which I agree is a must needed first step, they can also request the phone logs from the phone co to show the dates and times the guy called the bank and how long those calls lasted. And I am sure the bank internally logs every time any employee accesses any account and can match up the phone logs to who access his account and the same dates and times. If he really made those calls and was assured by the bank that the $ was on the up and up then he should be able to recover the entire mistaken money and any attorney’s fees and costs associated with the bank’s error. If he did not make those call and the bans never actually assured him well then I agree with others that he should of known better.

  48. @Git Em SteveDave: What ever happened to a little common sense? It’s ideas like “They gave me money that wasn’t mine, and said it was okay to spend it..” that allows scammers to collect from people who have no common sense.

  49. lim says:

    @redpeppers20xx and nick_r: “I always wanted to surprise my loved ones with new cars for Christmas. Then they needed new sound systems for Valentines.”

    @RandoX: Obviously the cop would let you use the official running people over vehicle. Great clearance and non-stick undercoating!

  50. bonzombiekitty says:

    @bonzombiekitty: Also to add to this

    The guy showing up in my driveway handing me the keys to a car and a title, is probably going to be telling me why I’m getting a free car (i.e. I won some secret contest, or some mysterious anonymous person that he represents is giving it to me). Then, at least I have some first hand account of why I’m getting this free car.

    You’re a fool if you’d just blindly accept a random person giving you a car without asking for some sort of explanation from a primary party.

  51. The Master of Reason says:

    For the record, he “claims” that he contacted a bank first, but I doubt it very much. As a couple others have pointed out, just about any employee aside from a janitor or security guard would take it very seriously if they received a complaint that there was money deposited in somebody’s account by accident.

  52. Pro-Pain says:

    I would have closed my account, got a cashiers check and headed for the hills.

  53. ViperBorg says:

    @headhot: I’d go with ya on that one.
    @wgrune: [i]Would you run someone over with your car if a cop told you it was ok? [/i]
    After getting it in writing, yes.

  54. Jacquilynne says:

    @shades_of_blue: By government law, all business phone conversations much be recorded and archived for a two year period.

    Cite?

    Even call centers and such that do record occasional calls for quality purposes don’t necessarily do it for all of them. And the reason they have that recording telling you their doing it is because the law tells them they have to let you know before they record, not because the law tells them they have to record.

    I wonder if you’re thinking of trading floor transactions and similar? Some financial companies do have to record all their calls.

  55. slowinthefastlane says:

    @Pro-Pain
    I would have deposited it into an interest-bearing account for a few years until the coast was clear. If the bank came looking for it again, I could just give them back the money that was wrongly deposited and kept the interest.

  56. youbastid says:

    As improbable as the story sounds, it’s not all that unlikely.
    I know this because my friend got $80,000 deposited into his bank account at BofA. He called the bank and told them to take it out, they said they’d look into it. 2 weeks later, it was still there, he called again. At this point, he just wanted it taken out. He didn’t know the origin, and what if it was connected to drugs or something else? They told him the money was HIS, and that “everything was in order.”

    I told him to transfer it to a high interest account until they asked for it back, so he could at least make some money off it. 4 days later, they took it out.

    Moral of the story is, there’s a good chance this guy is telling the truth, but he was stupid to spend the money.

  57. @headhot: if you get caught laundering money, you’re not going to white-collar, resort prison. No, no, no. You’re going to federal pound me in the ass prison.

  58. katekate says:

    Is this guy an idiot? Even if the bank told him to spend the money, he’s pretty dumb. And if they did, indeed, tell him he could spend it, then he shouldn’t owe them a dime.

  59. jnews says:

    If a large amount of money appeared in your account, wouldn’t you owe income taxes on that? How do you report that on your 1040 anyways? Do you have to pay it as estimated taxes quarterly? Then what happens when the bank wants it’s money back — do you get your taxes back from the government?

  60. @jnews: Except as otherwise specified, the IRS doesn’t care how you got your money, so long as you pay taxes on it. You see, in America, even ill-gotten gains are taxable.

  61. SuhinaLazor says:

    A smaller version of this happened to me last month I got a statement
    from one of my brokers saying I had mad a $5000 deposit that I hadn’t
    (The account had a zero balance because its just a clearing account for
    my stock options) I called them and told them that I made no such
    deposit and asked them to investigate possible fraud or a data entry
    error. They said they would call me with in 48 hours. Guess what no
    call. Called back two weeks later the money is gone but an a few
    bucks richer in the interest it accursed while it was in there. O well
    one more line my my tax return..

  62. sponica says:

    I ended up with a windfall in my bank account, maybe around 1000 which is a lot when you’re a broke grad student. I tried calling the toll-free number, but the CSR couldn’t look back further than 60 days. Since this is an account based in my home state, I barely use it and never check the statements. When I did get in touch with someone at the branch, they were perplexed as to how it got into my account. They repossessed the money. The least they could have done was given me a 10% finders fee.

  63. heavylee-again says:

    @jnews: A person would not owe taxes on the money unless it came from a taxable source: income, inheritence, winnings, etc.

    Let’s say hypothetically, I gave you $260K knowingly and willingly. You wouldn’t owe taxes on that money.

  64. Concerned_Citizen says:

    He should be fine. The bank is claiming he never even made phone calls. Phone records should prove the bank wrong and therefore make his statement that the bank repeatedly said the money was his to spend very credible. The simple fact that the bank did not care to protect themselves from a huge money transfer that the recipient even told them made no sense, should mean the bank deserves to lose the money. He should sue to get the money they stole from his saving account back. And the bank needs to figure out who incorrectly sent the money into his account and who said it was ok to spend. Then they can go after those people for the missing money.

  65. thesabre says:

    I’ve heard of this happening in the past with other people. And people always call the bank asking them if it is their money and the bank says yes. That’s such a dumb question to ask because the bank is going off the assumption that it’s in your account, so it’s your money. Ask them who deposited it and when, not whether or not it’s yours.

    What do banks do with all those stupid little forms I have to fill out when I deposit money? And if this is made electronically, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be a law that requires the bank to keep EFT records and from whence they came. Isn’t that part of the Patriot Act?

  66. katylostherart says:

    @headhot: agreed.

  67. bonzombiekitty says:

    @heavylee-again: I’m pretty sure I would owe taxes on that. It’s income. It’d be akin to winning a prize. There are to my knowledge, however, a set amount of money you may give to a person that will not be taxed, but I think it only works for spouses and kids and there’s a limit on it that’s less than $100k

  68. Jabberkaty says:

    I know it’s wrong for him to keep the money – I know it and I don’t care. For all the times the banks screw over the little guy. It warms my heart to know that someone went on a shopping spree… Course, knowing the bank, it’s probably just coming out of some other poor sod’s account, so my glee is dampened.*sigh*

  69. MrGrimes says:

    @MoCo: I doubt its a mistake in the bank’s books. Banks are just clearing houses when it comes to ACH transactions. Most likely, the error was triggered by another customer. I’d love to know the explanation.

  70. Silversmok3 says:

    If someone deposited that kind of money in my account, Id assume its an error, and behave accordingly.

    If I cant trust a bank teller to tell me how much money I usually have without giving me 3 different numbers, how could they be trusted to tell me a random 100K in my account is actually mine?

    Verbal agreements FTL.

  71. Sudonum says:

    @heavylee-again:
    The friend that you gave the money to would owe taxes on it. The question is, how would the IRS know that they received the money if you didn’t report giving it to them? If you didn’t report the gift on your tax return to reduce the amount of taxes you owe then they would be less likely to find the transaction, but they could depending on what your friend did with the money.

  72. katylostherart says:

    @moore850: burden of proof is on the accuser. that’s kind of how the legal system in america works.

  73. vastrightwing says:

    This scenario is similar to the Craig’s list scenario where someone will post an ad telling people to come to their home and take everything they see because they are leaving and can’t take anything with them. Of course greedy people will deny there is anything fishy about this and will arrive at the address and loot everything they can carry with no guilt (even when the rightful owner is telling the looters he never placed an ad on Craig’s list)

  74. enm4r says:

    @bonzombiekitty: I believe it’s $12,000 a year for tax free gifts, up to $1MM lifetime. This applies to anyone, not specifically family.

    The auto analogy somewhere above is the best. No matter what the valet says, the Porche he’s trying to give you will not be yours if you drove a Kia to dinner.

    That said, when an error like this results, I’d immediately move all of my money from that bank to another, keeping any minimums in place to keep accounts open. I have actually done this, though a sum much less. I move the money to a new bank and waited until I was contacted. Though I eventually worked it out without too much effort, I retained control of funds the entire time. That’s the goal.

  75. @The Master of Reason: @thesabre: I have heard the the process of recording “found” or extra money is much much harder than losing it. I had a boss who got an extra 20 from the ATM machine and tried to return it. They refused to take it and the teller told him it was a mountain of paperwork to take in money that doesn’t “belong” to an account b/c of regulations and reporting.

  76. i still can’t believe this clown did’nt record every damn phone conversation between himself and the bank.

  77. Konrad says:

    So… where did the money come from?

  78. shades_of_blue says:

    @Jacquilynne:

    Cite? There’s nothing to cite, I know it for fact. My work is required to record and archive all email and phone conversations. They must be archived for a total of two years. If said information is written over or never recorded a business can face hefty fines.

    Granted I do work for a company which deals with the government, so it naturally has to abide to a higher guideline then most, I still know all businesses are required to archive email/phone conversations. New guidelines introduced last year require it, for all businesses.

    Didn’t you ever wonder why your cellular provider makes mention of the ability to ‘recover’ deleted voice mail? They are not doing that as a ‘convince’, I can assure you that.

    I myself made Wachovia check their recorded conversations after an issue with paying off the remainder of my auto loan. The stupid shit who I spoke to over the phone must have tried to cut-n-paste account numbers to save time because he had my money sent to someone else’s account. They tried to tell me that it was my fault, but I called them out and then they checked the archives. Sure enough, I was right and they promptly fixed the problem.

    Now, if they would have fucked with me on that I would have sued them for punitive damages. Also, I would have slammed them publicly on any media type which would hear my story.

    Lastly, the bank is FDIC insured for events like this. If the bank fucked up, it’s their loss and the insurance company eats it. Not the bank or the guy who sent a ¼ mill to the wrong account. Well, actually the guy who sent it could be held accountable because he waited longer than 30 days to report an issue with his transfer. It’d be like the ‘in the event of credit card theft we are only required to refund the full amount if reported within 48 hours’ clause.

  79. shades_of_blue says:

    Cite? There’s nothing to cite, I know it for fact. My work is required to record and archive all email and phone conversations. They must be archived for a total of two years. If said information is written over or never recorded a business can face hefty fines.

    Granted I do work for a company which deals with the government, so it naturally has to abide to a higher guideline then most, I still know all businesses are required to archive email/phone conversations. New guidelines introduced last year require it, for all businesses.

    Didn’t you ever wonder why your cellular provider makes mention of the ability to ‘recover’ deleted voice mail? They are not doing that as a ‘convince’, I can assure you that.

    I myself made Wachovia check their recorded conversations after an issue with paying off the remainder of my auto loan. The stupid shit who I spoke to over the phone must have tried to cut-n-paste account numbers to save time because he had my money sent to someone else’s account. They tried to tell me that it was my fault, but I called them out and then they checked the archives. Sure enough, I was right and they promptly fixed the problem.

    Now, if they would have fucked with me on that I would have sued them for punitive damages. Also, I would have slammed them publicly on any media type which would hear my story.

    Lastly, the bank is FDIC insured for events like this. If the bank fucked up, it’s their loss and the insurance company eats it. Not the bank or the guy who sent a ¼ mill to the wrong account. Well, actually the guy who sent it could be held accountable because he waited longer than 30 days to report an issue with his transfer. It’d be like the ‘in the event of credit card theft we are only required to refund the full amount if reported within 48 hours’ clause.

  80. digitalgimpus says:

    If that happened to me, I’d make a big scene in the middle of the bank while it’s crowded about how they are so poor at managing money they accidentally put funds into my account.

    Maybe even make video and put it on YouTube, why not?

    If they want me to stop publicizing their mistakes? They’ve got to make it worth it. Fix the mistake, public apology, and maybe even some real free checking for life for starters. An an executive contact for any complaints I ever have so I don’t have to deal with a CSR.

  81. jjason82 says:

    I agree that it is the bank’s own fault, however, it was beyond retarded to only take them at their verbal word before he started spending it. A sum of money that large you don’t just take somebody on their word, you get something in writing, signed by a manager or something. Then you talk to a lawyer about it and possibly withdraw it from your bank and deposit it in another bank. You don’t just say, “oh well okay” and start spending a hundred thousand right off the bat. That’s just asking for trouble.

  82. EllenRose says:

    @wgrune: Would you run someone over with your car if a cop told you it was ok?

    That depends. Is the guy I’m supposed to run over a lawyer?

  83. @shades_of_blue: Um, you’re wrong. I can certainly believe that some businesses are under special rules that require the recording of phone calls. But there are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of small businesses (for a few dozen of which I have done IT work) that do NOT record ANY phone calls. They are not breaking any kind of law.

    If you think I’m wrong, cite the law to which you refer.

  84. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    You’re a fool if you’d just blindly accept a random person giving you a car without asking for some sort of explanation from a primary party.

    @bonzombiekitty: No explanation = stolen car

    I don’t understand the anonymous deposit explanation. How does that even make sense? Even if I wanted to shove money into a stranger’s bank account wouldn’t I need an account number to do that?

  85. dotcomrade says:

    This example proves that even if you document your attempts to notify the bank of their mistake, you’ll still get charged with Grand Larceny:

    [consumerist.com]
    [gothamist.com]

    A New York man discovered $5 million in his account. He says he told bank officials the money wasn’t his, but to no avail. Only after he withdrew $2 million did the bank realize it confused him with another customer. Now he’s accused of grand larceny and was ordered held on $3 million bond or $1 million cash bail and faces up to 25 years behind bars if convicted. However, one a law enforcement source said “There’s not a jury in the world that will convict this guy, not after he tried to give the money back and the bank blew him off.”

    I’d like to know why these people didn’t get a high profile attorney with some of that loot? After all, sooner or later they’re going to need representation, so why end up with a public defender?

  86. Lunanina says:

    A friend swears by her bank, has had the same account for years, despite the fact that on two separate occasions that I know of small amounts of money have mysteriously appeared in her account. Both times, the money wasn’t pulled back out and she spent it. Same deal, the bank said they could see no problem. I’d chalk it up to user error except for the fact that she keeps meticulous books. I told her if I were her, I’d change banks but she doesn’t see a problem. sigh. My thinking is, the money has to belong to someone and who’s to say one day it won’t be her account that takes the hit?

    If I’d been the guy, no way would I have touched a dime. Ain’t nothing in life for free.

  87. snoop-blog says:

    Yeah even if the bank did blow him off, if it’s not yours, it’s somebody else’s, and an amount like 280G’s, somebody’s bound to figure it out eventually.

    I have a hard time believing he really told the bank about this. If I went into the bank and told them there was “no way I deposited that much, nor do I know anybody who would, and even if I did, I’ve never given out my account number.” and then said “It must have been mistakenly deposited there and really belong to somebody else.” Then even if they said it was yours, I’d have the bank manager put it in writing. But I doubt the op presented to them in this manor.

  88. jpx72x says:

    @ChipMcDougal: Um. No. Stfu.

  89. rmz says:

    @shades_of_blue:

    Cite? There’s nothing to cite, I know it for fact.

    The internet, ladies and gentlemen!

  90. baristabrawl says:

    I’m all for moving the money into another account and collecting the interest. That’s a whole buncha interest, yo. But spending it? Um, yeah I have to say, “No.” That’s just asking to spend your golden years in the klink.

  91. sodden says:

    I just love how people are automatically blaming the old guy. If the bank had made a mistake and removed money from his account, he’d have had to go through hoops to prove they made a mistake.
    I’m not saying the guy should have spent the money, but he should have moved it to another bank first, especially since they whacked his savings account too.
    For situations like this, there really should be a third party that the parties could contact before anything happens, without involving the courts. As it is, the bank has all the cards.

  92. forgottenpassword says:

    I dont get this….. if someone deposits money into my account…. is it then not my money?

    I love these stories about how the bank fucks up & then sues the customer.

    IMO if a bank makes a disasterous mistake by accidentally depositing an obscenely large amount of money in someone’s account & the customer takes it…. then the bank is out the money for their own mistake.

  93. @forgottenpassword: Agreed. If making a transaction of over $10,000 requires a shitload of paperwork, shouldn’t it take a lot more to move 280,000?

  94. bonzombiekitty says:

    @forgottenpassword: No, it’s not your money if it was destined for somewhere else. That is someone else’s money. A bank fuck up does not magically make the money yours.

    Again, if the attendant at a parking garage brings you a car that is 10 times more expensive than your actual car, it’s still not your car no matter how much he may insist that it is yours.

  95. shades_of_blue says:

    @rmz: “The internet, ladies and gentlemen!”

    If that was a slam at me, it was pretty lame.

    @Dont Know Me? You Are Me.:

    Apparently my knowledge of the Discovery Act is rusty. It’s only data aka email which is required to be archived for two years. [Verified by my boss earlier today, when I told him about this banking cluster fuck.]

    Still, it does not matter because a large bank will [realistically] record conversations in an attempt to cover their asses. And if you read my whole reply you’d note that I have personal experience where they used those recorded conversations to correct an error.

  96. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I got $1300 from a bank error (Debit processing error, Walmart (Sam’s Club) was the looser). I actually returned the product and got a cash refund on the portion paid via debit. The other half of the purchase was on a check and they put it on a gift card with the assurance that I could redeem it for cash after 10 days.

    I went back after 10 days with the gift card and $3, told my story, and said the debit transaction never cleared.

    After speaking to senior management I walked out with $1297 in cash from the gift card.

    I held on to the money for about 6 months, but eventually spent it.

    I figure I have to be a member there for at least 26 years now.

  97. dotcomrade says:

    @forgottenpassword: “…I love these stories about how the bank fucks up & then sues the customer…”

    The bank isn’t suing anyone-the bank calls the DA and the DA convenes a grand jury to indict the customer on bank fraud–it’s the Feds that are coming after anyone caught withdrawing funds that don’t belong to them. It’s no longer between you and the bank. There are no loopholes. If there were any, the Commerce Bank customer would have been eligible to use them since he notified the bank multiple times about the error and used the money only when the bank assured him he was free to do so.

  98. Craig says:

    @bonzombiekitty, @Sudonum: You’re both wrong…the gift donor is taxed, not the donee. There’s an exclusion of up to $12,000 (I think) for the donor.

  99. jharrell says:

    Unfortunately, if he paid back even a penny he has no leg to stand on as he has already admitted that the Bank is due. So far it was reported that he paid $624.25, and $5,500.

    I personally went through something similar but much smaller. Allied insurance company, after months of arguing that they were due the money, rturned $7,500 and change to me from a medical reimbursement account they claimed was zero balance and paid in full. I knew I owed it. They refused payment. They sent my check back un-cashed with a note attached and signed saying “Paid in Full.” I also had numerous audio messages saved stating the same from different associates. So I spent it.

    Nearly a year latter they called saying I was owing nearly 8,000 now and needed to pay now. I agree they are due and explain that I will be sending small payments… They refuse and file suite. I got jacked in the end because as it turns out that because I sent in a small payment to the lawyer in the beginning of their sudden memory restoration.

    Point is, if you are trying to deny or might get sued and want to settle for less NEVER SEND ANY PAYMENTS! It will only acknowledge debt.

  100. Jmatthew says:

    “Agreed. If making a transaction of over $10,000 requires a shitload of paperwork, shouldn’t it take a lot more to move 280,000? “

    Only if it’s cash. Checks, wire transfers, electronic transfers, none of that requires any paperwork.

  101. joellevand says:

    @shades_of_blue: Actually, it was pretty spot on.

    Something is a fact when you have EVIDENCE to back it up, such as a legal citation. Just because you have an EXPERIENCE with something does NOT make it a fact, dear.

    I worked for a call center that recorded all calls. I also worked *many* places, including my current office, which does not record calls. Not only do laws vary based on the size of the business, but on the state and country (naturally) so what applies to you does not make it universal.

    Only on the internet does “It is true for me so it MUST be true for EVERYONE!” seem even close to rational argument.

  102. Here’s what you do in this situation:

    Go down to the branch, ask to withdraw the entire mystery amount in cash, then stick it in a burlap sack with a big dollar-sign on it. Then ask to see the manager (he’ll probably already be there I assume if it’s a big amount). Hand him the sack and tell him what happened. Tell him “It’s your problem now.” Also bring a friend to videotape this whole thing in case the bank decides to claim you withdrew the money and split.

    If they won’t take the sack, just keep loudly asking them whose $x,xxx they accidentally put in your account. Best done while the bank is busy so your fellow bank victims can see how badly the bank keeps their books.

  103. arcticJKL says:

    I like the idea of taking the cash and paying off your mortgage. Then when they want it back asking for a interest free loan.

  104. wildness says:

    I would have gone into the bank and asked in person with someone else videotaping the exchange after getting the go ahead on the phone.

    What jury would side with the bank? And if they took the money out afterwards, you could sue them.

  105. digitalgimpus says:

    @rmz: Depending on your industry, and location your retention requirements by law will vary. But I suspect you knew that. If your a public company IIRC it’s 2 years for most things.

    Even for personal use, if you delete an email ASAP and were involved in a legal matter where that email was requested by the court… you may be in trouble. Though they would also request it from your Email provider who likely retains a copy for at least 30 days, and that should cover your butt.

    Regardless, your responsible for your own records. Keep them, and keep backups of them. That beauty of digital. You can have as many as you want.

  106. henwy says:

    He’s dead in the water. There have been quite a few cases of Nigerian scams where people overseas deposit money in a person’s account as a show of ‘good faith’ in furtherence of a scam. The NYT profiled one guy who owes the bank millions. This is despite the fact he called the bank to verify the funds were legitimate. It turned out months later that they were fradulant checks written on company accounts. Even though he believed the money was his and his bank told him there was no problem with the deposits at the time, he ended up owing millions.

    Besides that though, you know this guy doesn’t have much of a case due to his lawyer. A lawyer who has the law on his side, argues the law. A lawyer who knows his client is going to get boned based on the law, floats the possibilty of jury nullification.

  107. RvLeshrac says:

    I side with the guy.

    I don’t care whether or not he’s making things up – these stories are just always too similar to the story of the guy who was arrested at a BoA for cashing a bogus check he thought was fishy *AFTER* he asked them to verify the check before he cashed it.

    He thought the check *MIGHT* be funny because the payment sounded like a scam, so he wanted to *VERIFY* with a *THIRD PARTY* (the bank) before he committed a crime. They verified that the check was legitimate, then told him he committed a crime *AFTER THE FACT*.

    If you walked into a police station and asked them if buying some cocaine was a crime, was told “no,” then proceeded to purchase the cocaine and were summarily arrested, the charge wouldn’t stand in court – why is there a different standard for the bank?

  108. RvLeshrac says:

    @shades_of_blue:

    There is no such law.

    If you know of one, cite it. The Discovery Act has nothing to do with retention of recorded telephone calls – it would deal with turning the records over to the court in a legal proceeding, but that’s all.

  109. RvLeshrac says:

    @RvLeshrac:

    I suppose it would be good to clarify “There is no such federal law in the United States,” since YMMV with respect to other countries, and certain states such as California have much more in-depth consumer protection laws.

  110. DeltaPurser says:

    What ambulance-chasing moron takes on a case like this?! How f*n desperate do you have to be for money to take on something like this? The guy and his wife are morons, but the attorney is an even bigger douche!

  111. RandomHookup says:

    @DeltaPurser: Even Charles Manson had a lawyer. It’s the cornerstone of our legal system.

  112. darkryd says:

    Uh, yeah should have kept a record of the event. He knew it wasn’t his money.

    Money is never “free”.

  113. Rbastid says:

    Did he really expect them to let him keep it? Banks tend to not just give away free money to people. Unless you have it in writing, from the president of the banking company, odds are your not suppose to have that money.

  114. shades_of_blue says:

    @RvLeshrac: Please read my last reply [and others], I assumed it was both data [email] and voice which have to be archived. Only data [email], voice depends on the size of the company or is entirely optional. Not sure how that part works out.

  115. Sudonum says:

    @Craig:
    I stand corrected. You are also correct about the limit. [www.irs.gov]
    I knew the IRS was going to get it’s hands on it in some way.

  116. Jordan Lund says:

    Dear Consumerist:

    I recently deposited somewhere in the range of $280,000 in my bank account. When I checked the balance later in the day I found that it wasn’t there!

    When I called my bank they told me they had no record of the transaction and that I hadn’t really deposited the money!

    We went back and forth, I had the deposit slip and everything. After several months and getting lawyers involved the bank now tells me they were able to mysteriously “find” $103,000 of the original $280,000. No word on where the other $177,000 ended up!

    Signed,

    Furious!

  117. mariospants says:

    From the news article:

    “…thinking that an anonymous benefactor had given them an awesome gift of free money. They said they’d heard about things like that before, on TV.”

    Really? I haven’t EVER. Has anybody ever heard of people getting free money given to them by an anonymous donor before?

    “This lawsuit might actually help my client if it goes to trial with a jury of his peers,” said Thomas Dickey of Altoona, Starbird’s attorney. “He called the bank a couple of times to give the money back, and they told him it was his. It took them four months to say ‘oops,’ and in the meantime, he was spending money on legitimate things”

    #1: “a couple of times”??? Sounds like he *might* have called the receptionist a couple of times and left “I have a problem with my account” messages in their inbox…

    #2: “legitimate things”??? As if that: A) makes it ok to spend the money and B) how can you spend $160k in a couple of months on “legitimate things”?

    This is like finding a purse with money but no I.D. on the sidewalk and spending it instead of turning it into the police. These people are essentially criminals, pure and simple.

  118. __Ken__ says:

    This is funny. A bank can go “oops, we put $280K in the wrong account” ans everything is fine and dandy. But, if you go “oops I forgot to pay my credit card bill yesterday” to the same said bank they can charge you a late fee and raise your rates.

    The guy should at least be able to get that.

  119. Craysh says:

    @bonzombiekitty
    Your analogy is wrong. The bank is the governing body of your account.
    A closer analogy would be if the Department of Motor Vehicles (or Department of Transportation) came to your house, dropped off a car, gave you the keys and said that it was yours.

  120. DCGaymer says:

    @headhot: Let me know how you get it there without having to pay taxes on it.

  121. macmizzle says:

    Hmmm…. sounds like shoddy actions to me. There have been at least 2 times when my bank has done the same thing to me. Just out of common sense, I check if everything is in order (to make sure nobody else on the account deposited anything) and if not, I don’t spend the money. If it’s not mine, I don’t spend it.

    When did common sense go out the window?

  122. ironchef says:

    the sad part of it is that this money was actually some depositor’s money.

    I don’t see why people can feel entitled to money that they didn’t rightfully earn.

  123. james says:

    Seriously, he kind of deserves to go to jail for a major case of stupidity as well as theft. Banks accidentally put monies in wrong accounts all the time and usually correct these problems within hours, but it is a crime to take the money that is not yours.

  124. mavrick67 says:

    To these morons that say that they would hide the money, withdraw it in cash etc, here’s a scenario for you. An armored car crashes outside your house. The doors open and a few sacks of cash fall onto your lawn. Do you actually believe that money belongs to you because it’s on your property?

  125. Keavy_Rain says:

    I saw a story similar to this a few years back on Dateline or 20/20.

    The story centerd on a poor woman in New York who suddenly started receiving large deposits. She did everything she could to get the bank to investigate but they refused so she took the money and started her own business.

    When the bank FINALLY got around to looking into the error they found out that her account number and the account number for a UN fund were one number off and it was a clerical error that was sending the UN money to her.

    I thought of that story when I saw this one.

  126. Just gonna throw my 2 cents in here even though this is old news…

    Bank error in your favor? It only happens when you play Monopoly. The customer knew damn well it wasn’t his money, and he had no business spending it. Don’t try to feed me that “They said I could!” BS. I don’t buy that for a second. No bank is going to tell you to spend the mystery money that wound up in your account. They have ways of checking that stuff out. IF you didn’t put the money there, then they can find out who did. I don’t buy it for a second. Customer is just trying to keep his butt out of jail.

  127. RvLeshrac says:

    @Daniel Alderman:
    @mavrick67:
    @james:

    As I noted earlier, banks are well-known for screwing over customers even when the customer attempts to verify that everything is on the up-and-up.

    The guy may be (and probably is) lying, but there are too many stories where the banks have been proven to be in the wrong for me to completely write off his defense.

  128. RvLeshrac says:

    @mavrick67:

    Oh, and the scenario should be “If an armored car crashes outside of your house and some bags of money fall onto your lawn, the crash is cleaned up before you get home, you find the money, call the number on the bag, and they tell you to keep it because there’s no way they made a mistake and left some money behind…”

  129. knucklesammichwitCheese says:

    Maybe I missed it…but did he ever ask who or what company deposited the money into his account? BTW…new user, so be gentle :-)

  130. @RvLeshrac: Yes, ethically, if an armored car crashed outside of your house and they left one bag with a dollar sign on it full of money, you are obligated to give it to the bank. If the person says, “There’s no way we could have made a mistake.” then you talk to someone else, and continue to talk to someone else until it’s put right. If they still refuse, then you take the money to the police. (Well, actually, you could have just taken it to the police to begin with.)

  131. MuCow says:

    This actually happened to me… but only about $18,000.00 worth.
    I noticed it on a receipt after making a deposit, and told the teller it was wrong. She did everything she could to convince me that it was right! She even asked if I had any rich relatives…
    I eventually ended up talking to the manager, who still refused to believe the bank made a mistake.
    I didn’t touch the money, and a few weeks later it turned up that a woman who opened an account on the same day as me was either given my account number somehow, or accidentally used my number to make a deposit.

    I got a ‘Thank You’ from the bank, but that was it.

  132. RvLeshrac says:

    @Daniel Alderman:

    Ethically, you only have an obligation to make a reasonable attempt to return the money. If returning the money requires leaping through a flaming ring of spikes, etc.

    Legal requirements may vary by state.

  133. gregero says:

    One month CD rates for today are 1.72%. If he had just taken the amount out put it in a one month CD and then stalled them for a month if they picked up on it immediately he would have around $5K.