Imagine reviewing your checking account balance and finding that you had an extra $88 billion on account you hadn't expected - in fact, $88,888,888,888.88 more then the last time you checked. What would you do?
Well, for a number of customers of SunTrust Bank in Florida [and - thanks to a sharp-eyed reader - Virginia], they could only dream. According to this story appearing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a supposedly stuck "8" key somewhere in the bank's IT processing system deposited $88 billion in a number of its customers' checking accounts last Friday night.
The bank caught the error by Saturday morning, and said the money was never really in their customers' accounts, although I wonder.
As you may remember, last year a New Zealand couple was mistakenly credited with a A$10,000,000 bank overdraft instead of A$10,000. They managed to skip town with most of it, and as far as I know, they haven't been tracked down yet.
In another recent story that appeared on KDVR television in Denver, Colorado, a woman thought she had won $42 million playing penny slots at the Fortune Valley Casino in Central City, Colorado. Even though the machine was indicating she had indeed won that amount, an attendant who came to check it out told her that the slot machine had malfunctioned. The casino proceeded to return the $23.00 the woman said she had put into the machine, and gave her a free room for the night and breakfast the next morning.
The casino claims that this is the first time in 15 years that this has happened. The Colorado Division of Gaming says that it will take a look at the slot machine's software, and see if the woman actually did win something. The max payout possible on the machine is [updated] $251,000 the Division of Gaming said in this article in the Denver Post.
The woman, understandably, wants the $42 million.
Finally, a user of the controversial Myki smart fare card system in Melbourne, Australia went to add money to his card because he thought there was a balance of only A$10.00 or so left on it. Instead, the story in the Age.com.au says, he found that his Myki card showed a balance of A$151,055.36. His first thought, he admitted, was to withdraw the extra money, but then he figured someone would probably get suspicious.
This story in ABC News Australia says that other Myki users (possibly as many as 30) have also found up to $167,000 extra on their fare cards. A spokesperson for Kamco, the Myki development consortium, in explaining the reason behind the errors is quoted as saying,
"It's quite a complicated programming situation where the system kicks the money or the amount up to $160,000 plus, and then a whole range of other calculations made... It's basically an algorithm that needs to be addressed."
A complicated programming situation to add or deduct money from a smart card? After spending over A$1 billion developing the Myki system, one would think that this "situation" would have been figured out by now. It seems like one of the basic requirements of the system.
Also, why does the Myki farecard allow A$160,000 to be placed on it in the first place? Is Australia expecting hyperinflation in the near future?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.