Couple Accused Of Stealing $16K By Exploiting Debit Card With Magically Increasing Balance

To my knowledge, there has never been an established, official “opposite day,” whereby spending money on products you actually magically increase how much money you have, much less an “opposite bunch of months” where this happens. So when a couple using a debit card that made them richer with every purchase realized what was happening, the legal thing to do would’ve been to pipe up.

Alas, a British twosome decided to stay mum on their bit of money magic, after what was supposed to be a prepaid debit card that you know, debits money from the balance on it instead started adding funds to the account when it was used, reports the Hull Daily Mail.

The couple ended up with £10,000 — around $16,000 in “free” stuff from a local shop by using the glitchy card. After about a year of mysteriously losing money, the store owner called the police and officials realized what was going on.

“The system should have been the person who owns the card pays money in advance, then spends money on the card,” the prosecutor said. “In this case, it was the reverse. When they bought something, they were credited rather than debited so the amount on the card was increasing and that went on for nine months.”

Both the man and the woman pleaded guilty to fraud, because though they didn’t realize it wasn’t just a magic “opposite day” kind of thing at first, once they did, they kept on taking advantage of the card.

“They don’t understand how the money was put on it, whether it was a glitch in the system or the shopkeeper didn’t know how it worked, but once they realized, they did carry on like it was a golden ticket,” the woman’s lawyer explained, adding that she “regrets her involvement and the effect it had on the shopkeepers.”

‘Golden ticket’ debit card paid out £10,000, Hull Crown Court hears

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  1. furiousd says:

    It’s certainly dishonest, but is a formal charge necessary when they weren’t the one who caused the glitch? Seems that it should be like when something is delivered to you in error: the honest thing to do would be to return it, but you legally have the option of keeping it. At worst they should be required to return the money, but not brought up on charges.

    • mzmoose says:

      I believe there’s a huge difference between being sent something you didn’t order and being handed a wad of money that is simply not yours, over and over again.

      If they’d only done this once or twice, maybe even three times, I would agree with you. They hit a glitch, didn’t catch it, and should be simply on the hook to repay what they spent that wasn’t theirs.

      But they eventually figured out what was going on and kept it going for a YEAR. To me that says that they (eventually) intentionally knew what they were doing and that makes it fraud.

      • furiousd says:

        So is it the fact that they exploited the glitch or the fact that it was cash rather than goods that gets you? For instance, if I discovered that I could order a stuffed animal on Amazon and they’d always send me 5 iPads would I be covered by the laws that allow me to keep whatever I’m sent or should I be arrested for fraud? A postulated situation closer to the case at hand: suppose an incompetent teller was doing the wrong thing and whenever the couple made a withdrawal from their account the teller handed them cash and then recorded the transaction wrong to where no money came out of their account. If there was no pre-conceived plan made with the teller, I don’t see the case for fraud.

        I’m separating here what’s moral and what’s legal. From a moral standpoint I think they should have brought the issue to light immediately, but from a legal standpoint I don’t see the fraud claim since they’re not the ones that created the glitch.

        • CzarChasm says:

          You are never entitled to something that is not yours. Period.

          • furiousd says:

            Of course not, which is why I say that morally they should have notified the bank or store when they first discovered the error. From a legal perspective on what their obligations are I don’t think there’s a case beyond “give the money back”. I see no criminal aspect given that they did not cause the glitch.

            • CzarChasm says:

              Legally, you are still not entitled to anything that’s not yours. In either of your examples above, it would still be fraud. Law is something that takes a fair amount of education and a lifetime of experience to be any good at, as a layperson, of course you see no criminal aspect, you simply don’t know the law.

        • mzmoose says:

          They exploited the glitch. That’s fraud.

          The “If I didn’t order it, I get to keep it” comes in to play when there is NO contract for sale at all. Ex: You suddenly get a box from Amazon. You have not placed an order with Amazon for months. The box has your correct and legal name and address. The box contains five iPads. Congratulations, you now own five iPads.

          However, if you order a stuffed animal and they send you five iPads, you must return the iPads.

          If you have a bank account and the bank suddenly deposits $30k into it, that is not yours, you must return it, because you have an account with that bank. When you sign up for an account there exists a contract that says some version of “We hang on to your money and in return you don’t be a dick.” [Whether it says “We won’t be a dick, either” is another matter, which we’ll just put aside for the moment.]

          Please note that I Am Not A Lawyer. I have taken basic law classes and have read a thing or two, but IANAL at all.

          • furiousd says:

            Interesting, and much more informative that [CzarChasm]’s two-pronged “that’s not what the law means” and “you’re an idiot” argument. You’ve actually taken the time to help me better understand the difference.

            In other articles on Consumerist where people, for instance, have ordered one iPad and received five “Legally, anything that is shipped to your home is yours to keep” it sounds like there’s a law written and a legal precedence set where my examples above would be test cases to better understand the extents of the legal precedent as it applies to this situation. Of course, I’m sure a defense of “I saw it on Consumerist” wouldn’t hold up in court, but given my lack of background in law I had only prior anecdotal evidence to go on.

            Two possible test cases we could use from [CzarChasm]’s statement “You are never entitled to something that is not yours. Period.” would be 1) why does the government take the money I earned out of my paycheck? and 2) why do people who do not earn money get ‘free stuff’ from the welfare office? My wages don’t belong to the government, and welfare recipients seem to be entitled to something that is not theirs. Thank you, [mzmoose], for providing a slightly more useful response to my questions on the matter addressed above.