Wachovia Tells Man He Owes $211,010,028,257,303.00

Joe Martins of Georgia got a surprise letter from Wachovia telling him he owed $211,010,028,257,303.00 on his account with them. That’s two-hundred and eleven trillion, ten billion, twenty-eight million, two-hundred and fifty-seven thousand, three-hundred and three dollars, and zero cents. The letter also said Wachovia was reporting him as a risky bank customer. When contacted by a local news station, the bank apologized and blamed it on a “word processing error.”

Wachovia Bank Tells Man He Owes $211 Trillion [WSBTV]


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  1. ShadowFalls says:

    How many “word processing errors” actually occur? If they screw up this badly, how many other times have they screwed up? Did this guy actually owe anything at all? If he didn’t, then this is more than just a “word processing error.”

  2. Amry says:

    It’s a word processing error in that someone typed his account number into the dollar amount field. It’s a dumb error and the type that shouldn’t happen, but it was probably a form letter related to the outstanding check the article mentioned and someone typed the wrong letter in the wrong blank.

  3. KivaWolf says:

    Someone is going to get fired for this. I mean who on Earth would be stupid enough to enter the bank account number into the dollar amount field? Then again there are people who were born in the shallow end of the gene pool.

  4. catnapped says:

    Is this how the banks are going to try to reclaim all that subprime mortgage money they lost?!?

  5. sroemerm says:

    I know this is slightly off topic, but if banks have trouble with electronic accounting, how in the world are we supposed to have faith in electronic voting?!

  6. saltmine says:

    Man, I wish he just turned around and wrote them a check for $211,010,028,257,303.00 from his already overdrawn account.

  7. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    “Sir, we are now holding you responsible for a portion of the US National Debt. As always, we appreciate you being a loyal Wachovia customer. Your business is important to us.”

  8. Half Beast says:

    I’m inclined to agree…something is definitely amiss here.
    Word Processing Error =/= Palm smashing the numpad.

  9. Leiterfluid says:

    I hate to be a grammar nazi, but you’ve got way too many “ands” in your number. Two-hundred eleven trillion, ten billion, twenty-eight million, two-hundred fifty-seven thousand, three-hundred three dollars, and zero cents.

  10. Jay Levitt says:

    Budgets, people, budgets.

  11. catnapped says:

    @Jay Levitt: The guy’s credit score is probably kaput by now

  12. XTC46 says:

    ummm…if this is his account number, I hope they had the thought to change it since I now have it as well as his name.

    other than that, I have no problem believing this was a small error and I don’t see why its a big deal. Its not like he went to them and they refused to believe it was a problem.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    He was mistakenly charged the costs for the Iraq quagmire.

    Hey, better than pawning off the costs to kids and their kids!

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    And, I like how Wachovia was kind enough to round to the nearest dollar. Because arguing over an extra fifteen cents would have been so tacky.

  15. HrPingui says:


    Because if banks have also trouble with paper, how can we trust ballots?

  16. ColoradoShark says:

    @KivaWolf: In a poorly designed application it would easy to type the wrong stuff into the wrong field. Clearly this is a poorly designed application if it lets someone enter this large a number into the dollar field.

  17. P41 says:

    Of course Wachovia only needs ONE person to pay this kind of bill, and the subprime mess is OVER. ;)

    But seriously…Quote from the article: “Since it is a closed account it is now safe to say the dollar figure in the letter matched the account number.” what it doesn’t say is whether he actually owed them some money (I wonder if it says it’s for account number -5 or anything).

  18. Holy… shit…

  19. swalve says:

    @Leiterfluid: HA! I felt so smart thinking I was the only one who noticed that.

    @KivaWolf: It’s amazing how quickly people want to fire people for silly, meaningless mistakes.

  20. azntg says:

    @swalve: I want you fired for your comment! OMG how could you not want a person who makes a stupid mistake to get fired? Okay, but seriously though, rather than fire the person who typed that up, Wachovia should HIRE a second person to read the letter to check that it makes common sense and legal sense.

    @P41: Think other banks will follow suit? Doing this just might make America’s economy really competitive again.

  21. Rusted says:

    It’s a non story. One of those man bit dog things. I’ll bet the letter gets framed and put on a wall.

  22. trollkiller says:

    I will bet it was not the bank that screwed up but the guy that attached the database to the job he was printing.

    Form letters like this are generated by attaching a database to a form. The form would read something like “Dear [first] you owe us [balance] that is due by [date]”. [first], [balance] and [date] are all variables. If you enter the database for any reason it is real easy to change a field by accident. This time it just happened to be the [balance] field.

    In any case, you know the poor guy had a most amusing WTF? expression when he opened the letter. Now that would have been a Kodak moment.

  23. Rando says:

    more like a macro error

  24. Electroqueen says:

    XTREme LOL!!!
    Wow, this sucka must have been funding some kind of war or at least the most awesome kumite ever!

  25. “That’s two-hundred and eleven trillion, ten billion, twenty-eight million, two-hundred and fifty-seven thousand, three-hundred and three dollars, and zero cents.”

    I think you mean “That’s two-hundred eleven trillion, ten billion, twenty-eight million, two-hundred fifty-seven thousand, three-hundred three dollars, AND zero cents.”

    When speaking writing out numbers, the word “and” represents a decimal point.

  26. Now to correct myself: “When speaking OR writing out…”

  27. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @Leiterfluid: Word. This was my pet peeve as a teacher.

  28. jrdnjstn78 says:

    I like how in the article it says that Wachovia never reported it to the credit agencies. Hahahaha, how nice of them! Like they were doing him a favor. I bet if this guy never contacted the tv stations, he’d probably still be fighting this.

  29. Hoss says:

    Even though his account is closed, the account number can still be used for check fraud. We even know the bank to use for a routing number, and the name of the account.

  30. Noremakk says:

    Hah, I’d love the see the look on the guy’s face when he first read that…

  31. chartrule says:

    how many years is his credit now screwed for ?

  32. KJones says:

    If you count it the British way, it doesn’t sound so bad:


    Two hundred eleven billion, 10 milliard, 28 million, etc.

  33. XTC46 says:

    @Hossofcourse: I’m thinking the check will bounce :)

  34. Jean Naimard says:

    When you owe $2 million to your bank, you are screwed. When you owe $211 trillion to your bank, the bank is screwed…

  35. surewriting says:

    this is a but similar to this story:[news.yahoo.com], but instead of the person having to owe an insane amount, he was given a check for nearly 2 million by accident

  36. P41 says:

    What’s this talk about firing the data entry shmuck (probably under stress from quotas or whatever) over this screwup? NO, fire the programmer, who didn’t put in a test to confirm anything over, say, a million. (And if they can’t put that kind of logic in, fire the 1980’s era IT manager.)

    On a similar vein, a while back I remember reading someone complaining that their two day guaranteed airmail was late when “sent to the wrong place”. I’m told that the people at UPS who scan the tracking codes as they load your packages in the truck have to VISUALLY spot if it’s going to the wrong state. It would be quite easy for the computer to check the barcode’s intended destination, and buzz disapproval if that’s not where the package is supposed to be going. So why are computers always programmed to not allow refunds, or require some meaningless thing, and huge obvious screwups sail right by?

  37. jooverz says:

    His credit score must be low.

  38. Trauma_Hound says:

    Can anyone say “Mail Fraud”?

  39. Dr.Ph0bius says:

    This is sad. It sounds like the guy ran straight to the news before he tried to resolve it with the bank, who would have obviously seen it as a mistake…

    Ive said it before, but the Consumerist is better than running these typo-stories as if they were stories of companies legitimatly trying to screw a consumer.

  40. trollkiller says:

    @Trauma_Hound: With mail fraud you have to have the intent to defraud.

  41. biminitwst says:

    Well SOMEBODY has to pay for the war in Iraq.
    And it sure isn’t going to be me!
    Suck it up and pay your bill, Mr. Martins.
    Unless you hate America.

  42. glass says:

    “They said it was a three day trial!” You should have known better! Pr0n cannot be cancelled! Enjoy your lifetime subscription to stretchmarkedhotties.com!

  43. Crim Law Geek says:

    I can understand a data monkey putting the account in the wrong field, but there are still two thing I can’t understand:
    1) What kind of crazy programmer makes the “dollars owed” field/variable so damn big. Isn’t that like a long unsigned int or something? (it’s been a while).

    2) What kind of bank needs a system capable of having more than 10 trillion account numbers? Do they expect everyone who has every lived (and everyone that will ever live) to open an account at their bank? This sort of thing bugs me alot, because if the state of Florida had a system that did not allow more than 12 billion people to get FL driver’s licenses before overflowing the system, I would not have had to without my wallet and check my ID every time I filled out a financial aid form! If the SSA can get by with 9 digits, why does florida need 1 Letter + 10 digits?!?

  44. Jesse in Japan says:

    Thanks to hyper-inflation, he’ll be able to pay that off some day.

  45. SinghLowd says:

    But,how much of that amount was his the fee for being over his credit limit?

  46. zibby says:

    Pay up, deadbeat.

  47. jeff303 says:

    @thirdgen: It really depends on the specific datatype. Any sane application will use at least double-precision (64-bit) values for currency although there special currency types are still available and preferred in many cases. The max value of a 64-bit double depends on the language but in C++ it’s 1 followed by 37 zeros (i.e. big enough)

    Please don’t fault them for allowing such large values. In software you design for expandability and the unknown. I regularly beat my head against the wall working around these types of “we never thought we’d need that many” design decision. What we can fault them for, however, is not verifying the data before being entered into a letter mailed to the customer. At the very least the process that generates the letter should have a maximum value that sets off an alert or something.

  48. SoCalGNX says:

    Wachovia has other talents like giving you negatives on your credit report when you have never had an account with them. When you attempt to get it straightened out, they tell you they have deleted all associated records.

  49. nighthwk1 says:

    @KJones: That scale is rarely used in England these days… [en.wikipedia.org]

  50. evilkoala says:

    @catnapped: But think of how good his score will be when they reverse the charge and it shows he paid off a two hundred eleven trillion dollar loan. :)