Windfall from a Bank Error
Engineering student Christine Lee became a millionaire by accident when the Australian bank Westpac accidentally credited her account with an unlimited overdraft. Between 2014 and 2015 she took out AU $4.6 million from this account, and spent most of it on designer handbags and other luxury goods because that’s apparently what young people do these days. 🙂
Westpac claims it gave Christine the generous overdraft funds 4 years ago by mistake. Fraud cops began an investigation into the matter in 2012. But it wasn’t until March this year that an arrest warrant for her was issued. She was then arrested by the Australian federal police earlier this month. The prosecutor said Christine had failed to notify the bank that she was not entitled to the money. Welcome to the real world, Christine. 🙂 If you make a mistake and don’t pay your credit card bill on time, you will be harassed by the bank. But when they make a blunder such as reckless lending it’s still your fault. 😛
However, the magistrate Lisa Stapleton has reportedly agreed with Christine’s defense lawyer that the police would “struggle to prove the spending of the money was illegal.” She points out that Christine “didn’t take it from them. They gave it to her.” I would be inclined to agree with the magistrate. The police is charging Christine with “dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.” I don’t know much about Aussie law but this statute is concerning to me. Who exactly would Christine have deceived? Westpac practically gave her the money in the form of a glorified line of credit, lol. And how would it be a crime to buy handbags with overdraft money? Westpac also had 2 years to notice and correct the overdraft error before Christine used it. There are many bank sponsored credit cards that feature no spending limits so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that a teenager would see an overdraft account and think the bank was just being extra accommodating. Westpac even claims it offers “a range of innovative financial packages to suit your needs.” Maybe some people feel they need a shopping spree. 😉
This is like a game of Monopoly. Christine thought she got lucky. 🙂
But instead, all she got was trouble. 😛
Was she in the wrong? Probably, especially if she didn’t intend to pay back all the money she borrowed. But does she deserve to be arrested and possibly be tarnished with a criminal record while she’s still in college? I’m not sure. 😕 In any case I think there are a couple important lessons we can take away from this story.
- If you owe the bank $4.60 that’s your problem. But if you owe the bank $4.6 million, that’s the bank’s problem. And they will come after you with the fullest extent of the law. #beware.
- Luxury handbags can be really expensive. As a thrifty consumer if I ever wanted a handbag I would just make my own, like this beauty here. ?
Random Useless Fact:
The German word for “children” is kinder.