In the Financial Times, Patrick Combs explains the series of events that occur when he deposits a junk-mail fake check in his local bank for over $95,000 — and the bank cashes it and credits his account with the funds:
It was a cheque, made out in my name, for $95,093.35 and it came in a junk-mail letter from a get-rich-quick company. It was worthless, meant only as a financial tease, a lip-licking come-on. “This is how much money you could soon be making.” What it was never meant for was deposit. But that’s exactly what made the thought of depositing it so irresistibly funny. What could possibly be funnier than depositing a perfectly ridiculous, obviously false, fake cheque? (Did I mention it had “non-negotiable” clearly written on it?) So, as a joke, I deposited the fake cheque into my bank’s ATM. I felt like a million bucks doing so. I’d never had so much fun at my bank. Come to think of it, I’d never had any fun at my bank until the moment I endorsed the back of this “cheque” with a smiley face and slipped the Monopoly-like money into the mouth of the hungry ATM. For the first time ever, I walked away from my bank laughing.
What I expected to happen next was a short phone call from my bank. Or a letter informing me of what I already knew, that the cheque I deposited was not real. Admittedly, I also hoped for a compliment on my refined sense of humour. A “Mr Combs, what you deposited was not real but very funny, especially considering your real bank account balance history” (an account always bouncing into overdraft).
But the call or the letter never came and I forgot about my joke. Then, five days later, I returned to withdraw some cash from the ATM, and noticed a much higher than usual bank balance. $95,093.35 higher! The bank had credited my account with the fake, false, stupid cheque!
We all know it should have ended there. Fake cheque. Bank mistake. Give it back. But easier said than done. Especially considering the series of events that happened next.
Combs is currently touring the UK on a one-man show, so leaves out the ultimate denouement of this sad series of events, which can quickly be found by Googling:
Eventually his conscience got the better of him and Combs returned the money, after getting the bank to write a letter admitting they had acted like dicks. After months of insisting that “non-negotiable” on a check indeed rendered it invalid, Combs amused himself by paying them back the money with a check with the same “non-negotiable” written in the corner. The bank took it with no problem.
When Combs returns to the States, he should expect a phone call — the Bank of Washington just found its next CFO.
(Via The Brothers Judd.)