Simon Read: If a cash machine pays out too much money, are you just a common criminal if you take it?

 

It seemed like a bonanza to the folk who queued up to be paid out double their money at a Lloyds Bank ATM this week. The stand-alone machine – at Mansfield Woodhouse in Nottinghamshire – had been loaded incorrectly by a member of staff who put £20 notes in the tenner slot.

It meant anyone withdrawing £100 was paid £200 and so on. When the mistake was discovered on Monday morning word was quickly spread by jubilant people eager for friends to cash in. Local reports suggest that a queue of about 60 built up before bank staff turned up to shut the machine down.

How do you feel about that story? Jealous of a few people who got lucky? Or do you think they were stupid?

They were stupid because what they did was theft and they could be punished for it. The law is quite plain about it. The 1968 Theft Act says: "A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it."

Anyone who turned up to get the free cash knew that it didn't belong to them. Obviously many may have decided that it was the bank's mistake therefore it was OK to take the extra cash.

And there certainly is a widely held view that taking from large corporations such as banks is a victimless crime. However that ignores the fact that as thefts increase, prices will rise as firms recoup their losses from all customers.

But the people who queued up to cash in were also stupid as, by using their cashcards to get the free money, they were also giving the bank all the evidence it needs to track them down.

People have been caught and imprisoned for helping themselves to 'free' money from a cashpoint before. Just over a decade ago a family in Coventry made hundreds of visits to a faulty cash machine and took out £134,410 that wasn't theirs.

They splashed the cash on a new car and air tickets to Jamaica. I wonder whether the splurge was worth it. Three of the family were certainly given time to reflect on that when they were later imprisoned.

Meanwhile in 2009 an Essex couple were given suspended jail sentences after taking £61,000 from a faulty ATM over three months.

Mistakes such as this week's happen. In fact an RBS staff member made the same cock-up just before Christmas in a cash machine in Edinburgh, which then began giving out £20 notes instead of tenners.

Then, as happened this week, word spread quickly as the error was highlighted on social media and people flocked to the machine. The local paper even reported that there were cheers as money was withdrawn.

The cheers ring a little hollow if anyone is subsequently prosecuted for theft. Even if banks decide not to prosecute, people who help themselves to free cash are on morally shaky ground. Why not report a mistake, rather than looking to profit from it?

s.read@independent.co.uk

Twitter: @simonnread

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Solvency II Project Manager - 10 month contract - £800 p/d

    £800 per day: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, global financial services co...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

    Guru Careers: Financial Controller

    £45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

    £12500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

    Day In a Page

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'