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Chase customers hit rich list in banking glitch

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In a historical glitch, a Chase Bank customer became an overnight billionaire as $50bn was deposited into the couple’s account.

21st Jul 2021
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Just as Chase Bank (now JPMorgan Chase) gears up to launch its digital banking service, headquartered in London, a colossal misstep saw $50bn accidentally deposited into a Louisiana family’s account.

During a routine finance check, the real estate agent from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his wife (who avoided interviews) noticed the crisp $50bn sitting in their Chase Bank account.

One day in June, Darren James came home to his wife holding up their bank balance on her phone, exclaiming “Look at this!”.

“All we were thinking was, ‘Who’s going to be knocking at our door?’” James told NYPost. “Because we don’t know anybody with that type of money”.

“That's not like a one zero error or a two zero error, that's somebody that fell asleep on the keyboard error,” James told CNN. “I was excited for sure. Really surprised how it got there and wondered if I had a rich uncle that gave it to me.”

The couple soon realised the payment was obviously a mistake – one that briefly put them just above Nike’s co-founder in the Forbes billionaires list.

“We’re still trying to figure out what happened, why it happened, how it happened, but we know we aren’t the only ones this happened to,” said James. “The concern is whether my account was compromised, and the bank hasn’t even called me. We haven’t heard anything from anyone.”

Would you be tempted to keep the money?

The $50bn remained in the Louisiana couple’s account until Chase removed the funds. However, Chase Bank claims a different timeline of the correction, whilst acknowledging the mistake.

Holding on to the funds can come with severe penalties. In 2019, a Pennsylvania couple learned the hard way when they were met with heavy theft charges after $120,000 was accidentally deposited into their account. They spent a sizeable $107,000 on an SUV, a camper, two four-wheelers and a car trailer instead of informing their bank.

Fortunately, the couple were not tempted to spend the money. “We knew it wasn’t ours. We didn’t earn it, so we couldn’t do anything with it,” said exam law enforcement James. “We couldn’t spend it — that would be theft.”

Darren James claims 150 other customers in the US had various amounts accidentally deposited at the same time, and is now concerned about the security of their accounts.

Poor timing as Chase moves to become fintech

The mishap is unfortunate timing indeed, as the glitch comes during JPMorgan Chases move to become a digital bank, “tailored to meet the needs of customers in the U.K., delivered via an innovative mobile app”, according to its press release. 

“Even as digital banking has become mainstream, the bank found that the stability and trustworthiness of the banking provider remains a key consideration for consumers,” the release continues. 

“We had a technical glitch a couple of weeks ago impacting a limited number of accounts,” Chase Bank spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus. “The issue was resolved one day later and all accounts are showing accurate balances.”

No further detail was offered into the cause of the glitch, and Bonitatibus failed to provide any exact figures on the total deposited in Chase customer accounts or how many accounts had been affected. Chase has also failed to disclose the risk of the accounts being compromised in any other way. 

Chase Bank has declined commentary of this to AccountingWEB.

Not the first time for Chase Bank

Florida woman, Julia Yonkowski found nearly $1bn in her Chase account when withdrawing $20 from an ATM – and then struggled to find someone at Chase to help her return the sum.

However, Bonitatibus later told The Post that the amount was a negative sum posted by Chase “to draw her attention to an issue with her account”.

“Our local branch and customer service group spoke to Mrs Yonkowski yesterday to clarify the discrepancy,” she added.

According to Yonkowski, she could not get through to Chase: “I get tied up with their automated system and I can’t get a person.” She also admitted that the incident made her scared of an implied cyberthreat to her accounts: “You don’t know what to think.”

Other reports have since been made of erroneous Chase Bank sums, including one customer's account showing them to be $50bn in debt. The customer in question contacted Chase and was told she would have to wait several days for a response.

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