The Accidental Bank Deposit (What Would You Have Done?)

Sign "Steal not from thy brother"


Last week, I walked out of the grocery store to my car with a bag of groceries in one hand and my phone, wallet and a pack of gum in the other.

As soon as I saw the gum, I thought, “Shoot, I didn't pay for this!”

I was immediately struck with guilt and knew I needed to head back into the store.

I approached the cashier and told her about my error.

She smiled, thanked me for my honesty and promptly rung me up.

I couldn't believe what I had just done. What was I thinking (apparently, I wasn't)? I mean, I didn't even realize I had the gum in my hand until I was almost to my car!

I'm known to be a bit absent-minded at times – leaving car keys, cell phones and even my wallet in various places. I usually get them back, but walking out of a store with an item I didn't pay for was something that just shocked me.

The surprise bank transfer

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm propping myself up here to look like a saint in promptly owning up to my error. It's what we all should do.

Then, yesterday, I came across the story of Robert and Tiffany. There's no need to include their last names or where they're from (you can find this all out by doing a little digging on your own or following the preceding link).

Apparently $120,000 was mistakenly transferred into their account this May by a BB&T Bank teller who typed in the wrong number.

One day they had $1,200 in their account. The next, $121,200.

Of course, the couple promptly realized what had happened and called up BB&T, right?


They went on a little shopping spree, purchasing a four-wheeler, an SUV, a trailer and a race car (what?) over a two week period.

When the bank realized their error, they made numerous attempts to reach out to the couple in an effort to reclaim the money. Unable to do so, they made the decision to file legal action.

The couple now faces four felony charges (each).

Asked about the incident, they blamed the whole thing on some poor legal advice they had gotten. With each felony count costing up to 10 years in prison, Robert and Tiffany need a bit of grace.

Ever wondered how a bank works? We got you covered

No judgment, but…

After being caught, I wouldn't doubt the couple feels awful about the situation and wishes they could go back and make a different decision. But what startles me about the whole incident is their response.

Granted, we'd all love to wake up and see a $100,000+ in our bank accounts. But, if there were no rhyme or reason for it being there, wouldn't you wonder how or why it had gotten there? Wouldn't your first call be to the bank?

“Ah, are you guys missing about $120,000?”

Instead, they chose to spend almost all of it in a short period of time. And, also preceded to blame it on “poor legal advice.” (Granted they did give about $15k to some friends who needed it).

Maybe I'm being too harsh.

What are your thoughts on this story? What would you have done if $100k happened to appear in your bank account this afternoon? What if the amount was $1,200? $120? Or even $12? Would you report it?

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  1. I work as a member service representative at a mid-size Credit Union. You would be ASTOUNDED how many people will knowingly spend money that isn’t theirs. There seems to be a “get it before they notice” attitude among some people without any thoughts about the consequences. Sadly, there is also a cultural misunderstanding that a mistaken deposit would actually be a miracle they’ve been waiting on instead of a mistake in need of correcting. As a Christian that part saddens me the most, because IMO it shows that they are likely being misled theologically.

    • That’s amazing to hear, Daniel. Guess entitlement is everywhere.

  2. Aaron, I know this is off topic : About 40 years ago, I was on a new job in Pgh, still due my final paycheck from a former job and waiting for my 1st check on the new job. A friend asked me to go on a weekend road trip with her to Philly. I didn’t think I had enough money but said I’d check and get back to her. (I had seldom tried to balance my checkbook, just kinda winged it. Sometimes I came up short and other times I was pleasantly surprised). I went to the bank at lunch time to check my balance and was told I had $X (I don’t remember how much, but less than $200). It was a ‘pleasant surprise’. I was so excited, explaining to the teller how she’d made my day.
    We went to Philly and had a a lot of fun despite our small budget. The Bank called me at work on Monday. They’d made an error and I needed to bring the money back. I explained that I had spent it but would have my 1st paycheck in hand on Friday so they told me to bring it in Friday. I felt so very guilty and embarrassed all week even though I’d told no one about it. As soon as paychecks were delivered on Friday, I went to the bank and paid up. I’d forgotten all about this happening until I read your synopsis of Robert and Tiffany’s story. Then the emotions of that week, the walk to the bank, talking to the bank manager etc all came flooding back. I certainly would never have taken the money if I’d thought the bank was giving it to me in error.

    • Interesting – guess it can be an honest mistake, especially if you aren’t tracking things and the amount is nominal.

  3. I can understand the excitement from checking your bank account and realizing you have a lot more money then you did the day before. However, most people are going to call the bank and clarify the error, knowing that this is someone else’s money and not their’s. I couldn’t have even spent $1 without feeling guilty knowing that I would be spending someone else’s money. I was once at a store where the cashier gave me back to much change. Once I realized I had too much money, I promptly returned the extra. It would have eaten at my conscious If I hadn’t. I’m not wired that way and will never understand others that can do stuff like this without thinking of the consequences beforehand.

    • I’m with you Shane.

  4. There are two answers. One, you would have to realize that kind of mistake does leave an electronic trail and there is no chance that it won’t be quickly discovered and corrected. So even if you have no moral compass you’d still have to be an idiot to spend the money.

    Answer two is, because you should be honest, you would want the money returned anyway.

    • It baffles the mind, doesn’t it? Who knows their financial status (nor do I want to pile on more shame) – but it’s amazing they figured no one would notice that type of money would be “misplaced” by a bank.

      • Actually someone 3 years in a row deposited their tax refund into my checking account. As soon as I noticed that it was there I called my banker and told them about it. I figured they must have transposed some numbers on their tax return. It never occurred to me to keep it.

        • Oh my – three years in a row?! Wild.

          • Yes. They were very consistent. Same name.

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