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Oops, Your Balance Is: ($211,010,028,257,303.00)

A few years ago, an honest Virginia man reported a bank error that resulted in an extra $1.8 million dollars in his bank account -- not once, but three times. Where did all of that money come from? Perhaps they have now found the source. This week, a Georgia man was notified that he had a negative balance of $211 trillion at his Wachovia bank account. His debt makes the national debt, which is only slightly over $9 trillion, seem like small potatoes. Luckily for him, Wachovia reports that the balance was caused by an isolated banking error, and that he was not liable for any charges related to the negative balance. In this case, the error was that his account number was entered in place of his balance. Like the $218 trillion phone bill we saw in 2006, why are errors of this magnitude not caught by some sort of bounds checking algorithm in the bank's software? Furthermore, if an error this size gets through all of the checks and balances, then what other, less noticeable errors are falling through the cracks every day? Source: Techdirt

My Two Cents: (or should be, My 2 Billion Cents) I think there is more stupidness here than somebody accidentally entering an account number instead of a balance. Why do we need 15 digit account numbers? If every man woman and child in the world did their banking at Wachovia Bank there are enough account numbers for each of us well over 16 million bank accounts. I thought about going and claiming my share of them. I would find one of those "free" checking accounts with no minimum balances and say "I'd like to open 16.67 million bank accounts with one penny each, please." Unfortunately, demonstrating stupidness would cost me nearly $167,000. I only have 12 bucks in my wallet.

While it's excessive, I understand that Wachovia Bank probably does this for security purposes. But stupidness doesn't stop at the door of the bank.

Years ago I remember Andy Rooney on 60 minutes talking about ZIP codes. It was when they first expanded from five digit to nine digit ZIP codes. The ZIP+4 system creates the potential for one billion unique zip codes. That's about 3 1/2 zip codes for every person in America. It's about nine zip codes for every house or apartment in America. There are only 10 billion combinations of Social Security numbers, and Social Security numbers stay with you after you are dead. If Americans ran out of Social Security numbers, you would still only have to share your zip code with 10 other people and chances are that none of them would be dead. If people decided that cemeteries at their own zip codes, you would probably never have to share.

The Canadians have it right... fewer digits, but letters and numbers are included. They only have to remember six digits that have 2,176,782,336 potential combinations. The CIA factbook lists the population of Canada at 33,390,141 as of July 2007. (The fact that the CIA believes it knows the population of Canada down to the individual but they incorrectly believed that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction is a little scary, but that's a topic for another day.) So anyhow 2,176,782,336 divided by 33,390,141 means that every Canadian is entitled to slightly over 65.19 ZIP codes. If Canadians cut back to only five digits, everyone could only have two. That would make them less stupid than Americans, but that probably won't happen.

In fairness... I'm stupid. I have a total of six different e-mail addresses.

Have the stupid day.

source: Techdirt


  1. Anonymous6:52:00 PM

    You're looking at the account ID/number the wrong way. All account numbers have information built into them such as the type of account and bank branch of origion, ect... Infact only last couple of digits are used to identify the specific account.


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