A recent PayPal technical error made a Delaware man a quadrillionaire! The author looks for more financial exclamation marks.

Last week, for a day, Chris Reynolds was the richest man in the world. In a technical error that gave Reynolds a myocardial infarction — a condition better known to non-trillionaires and doctors as a heart attack — PayPal credited his account with USD 92,233,720,368,547,800! Of course, they also jump-started his heart with a ‘zero-balance’ message a few hours later.

As he recovers from this traumatic experience, with some hush-hush financial help from PayPal, here’s a look at other million/billion/trillion dollar ‘accidents’.

The German ‘Nap’ster

Sleeping on the job is a worldwide phenomenon. But while the rest of us catch forty winks on the sly, with a bribed lookout, one German bank employee had the cheek to nod off on his keyboard, DURING a transaction, slamming his cheek into the ‘2’ key. So instead of 62.40 Euros, said employee transferred 222,222,222.22 Euros! In a world where the sun rises in the east and your luggage never fits into the overhead rack, people would lose jobs for this kind of muck-up, right? Wrong. The bank fired the dozer’s supervisor for failing to spot the error, but the latter took it to court and bulldozed the bank into giving him his job back.

Finders keepers

The safest way to make money is to deposit a regular amount over a long period. Sally Donaldson did just that. She initiated a 1,000 pounds a month deposit into an account, content that the money was growing like a healthy, well-tended plant. It was only two years later that she realised she’d keyed in the wrong account code, making some random person 26,500 pounds richer. And thanks to data protection, Sally will never know who got her money. Moral of the story - plant a tree, but make sure you’re watering the right garden.

'Oh yeah!' to 'Oh snap' in a week

What would you do if you got some extra cash? Buy a dog, of course. And car insurance. Who couldn’t do with some car insurance? Joseph Bucci, resident of Bensalem, Philadelphia, had $35 in his account one day and $70,0035 the next. For a whole week, he bought airline tickets to a new destination with new cheques he wrote with a new pen, dressed in new clothes, sitting in his newly insured new car with his new dog and for all his trouble, earned a new conviction for third-degree felony and went straight into an old jail cell.

If it seems too good to be true...

It usually is. Ask Rico Lombardi and his wife, Margaret. One beautiful day in 1994, well, as beautiful as it gets in Cockeysville (that really is the name of the place), just-out-of-work Rico Lombardi made what he thought was a last, depressing withdrawal from their joint account, when he discovered he had $50,000 more than he had the day before. Rico thanked God and promptly withdrew all the money over the next three days, cleared some debts and went on with life. Unfortunately, the depositor, who shared his wife’s name, didn’t want to share the money. The Lombardis were ordered to pay back the money in full. But look at the bright side...oh, there isn’t one.

Catch me if you can

How hard is it to understand that money you didn’t put in your account isn’t yours? How hard is it to do the right thing? How hard is it, like any normal person, to take the money and run? Hui ‘Leo’ Gao, a New Zealand petrol bunk owner, found himself richer by $10 million. With marvellous financial planning, he transferred a bulk of the money to accounts in Hong Kong and China, diverted big bucks to gambling accounts in Macau, and hurried to Hong Kong with his girlfriend, Kara Hurring. After two blissful years, during which the couple inexplicably assumed the cops were sleeping, Hurring came back to New Zealand to renew her daughter’s passport. The rest is simply not the stuff heist movies are made of.

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