- An Australian bartender found a glitch in an ATM that allowed him to spend $1.6 million that he didn’t have in 5 months, according to a report by VICE.
- The man, Dan Saunders, made transfers back and forth between his accounts and withdrew money without the bank detecting that the accounts were overdrawn.
- Saunders spent one year in prison and 18 months out on a community corrections order after going to newspapers and TV outlets with his story.
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Imagine getting rich overnight. Well, that’s basically what 29-year-old Australian bartender Dan Saunders did in 2011, according to a report by VICE, with one major caveat — the money was obtained by duping an ATM.
The story, which you can listen to in full thanks to VICE’s new “Extremes” podcast, almost sounds like the premise of a movie. After a night out partying with friends, Saunders attempted to make transfers between his savings account and credit card at an ATM. But Saunders quickly realized that the machine was mistakenly letting him transfer more money than he actually had in his account.
In the early hours of the morning, the ATM machines went offline, disconnecting from the bank. Saunders saw there was a delay between the withdrawal and bank’s system documenting the transaction — so long as he transferred money between accounts during the ATM’s offline hours, he could withdraw large sums of cash without the accounts appearing overdrawn.
For the next five months, Saunders kept up the scam and spent a total of $1.6 million on wild parties, luxurious hotels, fancy dinners, and sometimes giving money to friends for college tuition.
“If you have imagination and money, you’re able to help people live their wildest dreams,” Saunders told VICE. “It’s a super addictive fun thing to do, especially when the money literally comes from ‘thin air.’ People who think you’ve got money, they treat you differently.”
But eventually, the charade was too much for Saunders to keep up. He stopped making the transfers and the bank realized what happened. Saunders told VICE it was more than 10 months after apologizing to the bank before any legal action was taken. He was taken to court after speaking to newspapers and TV outlets about the incidents.
“I thought I was going to get totally reamed, but the court was weird because no one actually understood what I did—not the judge, not the prosecutor—so it was very odd,” Saunders told VICE.
Saunders spent one year in prison and 18-months out on a community corrections order. Afterward, Saunders returned to work in the hospitality industry.