You can’t keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour; and, if you do, you probably won’t be able to get out of jail free
In the board-game Monopoly, one of the cards that you can get by landing on ‘Chance’ is ‘Get out of jail free‘. If you are sent to jail during the game, you can use the card to ‘escape’ immediately, without having to cool your heels for the three turns otherwise mandated by the rules. It is as about a useful guide for life as the its fellow Monopoly ‘Community Chest’ card, which tells you that you can keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour. Unfortunately, you can’t; and spending it is straightforward theft, as is well illustrated by a story in today’s Irish Independent:
Jail for ‘flabbergasted’ teen who succumbed to temptation after €20k was mistakenly lodged in his account
Karl Smith was due €200
A teenager who had “an incredible temptation presented to him” two days after his 19th birthday when his former employer mistakenly lodged almost €20,000 into account has been jailed for theft.
About $1 million has been recovered but the rest was spent on luxury items, police say
A Malaysian student has been charged in a Sydney court with dishonesty offenses after a bank accidentally gave her a $4.6 million Australian ($4.3 million Cdn) overdraft four years ago.
A mum-of-two accused of going on a €25,000 spending spree after a sum of money was mistakenly lodged in her bank account has been sent for trial
The accused … is facing more than 50 charges of theft, relating to stealing in excess of €25,000 in cash belonging to Bank of Ireland, which had been mistakenly lodged to her account. … The thefts are all alleged to have taken place over a two-week period in March 2013. … The money was allegedly withdrawn … from a number of ATMs across west Dublin.
There are earlier stages of this case here, here, here and here, and the case is still ongoing. [Update (29 Jan 2017): she has pleaded guilty to theft, and the matter has been put back for sentencing in April; see here, here, here and here].
All of these defendants would doubtless wish for a “get out of jail free” card, but it is likely to be as useful as the card that says to keep the proceeds of a bank error in your favour. When the Australian student was asked why she thought she had access to that much money, she said: “My parents give me lots of money”. The Dublin single mum made no such claims, but the satirical site Waterford Whispers has her say that she thought that Bank Of Ireland were finally paying her back for the Bailout. As for the flabbergasted teen in today’s story, he considered the windfall to be the answer to his prayers and “a gift from God”.
As I have said on this site, a bank error in your favour is not a gift from God; an overactive ATM is not santa, and the scrooge bank will have to be repaid; bank errors are not a licence to gamble; and keeping the proceeds of a bank error in your favour can amount to theft, whether the error is from overpayments or overactive ATMs. The moral is clear – Chance and Community Chest cards are not a useful guide to life, however much fun they are when playing Monopoly.