Go on take the money and run: bank error in your favor

We all make mistakes and banks are no different, except that when you and I misplace millions of dollars it's harder for us to get it back.

This time around, the Westpac Bank in New Zealand is having just as hard a time recovering 10 million New Zealand dollars ($6 million U.S.) after it mistakenly credited an account 1,000 times what it should have. The account owners, a man and his girlfriend, seizing the opportunity to become millionaires, withdrew a large sum of money and are now believed to be on the run with millions in tow.

The gas station which the couple formerly operated has been left unattended and many members of their family are reportedly missing as well. According to TVNZ, the couple escaped with $6 million NZ Dollars ($3.6 million U.S.) and Interpol was recently searching for them in China.
The bank blamed the multi-million dollar mistake on human error and is working with authorities to locate the individuals and its money. Given the human error that resulted in an $11 billion withdrawal from a man's account in Germany last month, perhaps banks need to rely more heavily on their computers when it comes to multi-million - or billion dollar transactions.

The New Zealand Bonnie and Clyde aren't the first people to try and live high on the hog after a bank error made them rich. In February of 2008 a New York man found $5 million in his bank account instead of the expected $800 and blew close to $2 million on jewelry and bad investments. For Mr. Lovell, whose account was mixed up with a much richer Ben Lovell, there was no storybook ending; he was charged with grand larceny and faces up to 25 years for the theft.

So remember, if you happen to check your account balance and find yourself a member of the new rich thanks to a bank error that it's explicitly that; a bank error. This is the real world, not Monopoly, there is no such thing as a bank error in your favor.

No matter what you've heard from your co-workers, neighbors and the Internet; you simply can't keep money the bank puts in your account by accident. Banks have records and, even if it takes years, they will find out about the mistake and rectify it swiftly.

Your best bet to minimizing the harm from a bank error like this is to get it sorted out quickly so you don't end up overdrafted when they do fix it or on the hook for millions when they find out you bought a penthouse with their money.

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