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ETpro's avatar

Has an ATM ever given you the wrong amount?

Asked by ETpro (34216 points ) May 24th, 2012

This question popped into my mind when I withdrew cash from my PayPal account and took it to my bank to deposit. The ATM spent all of 10 seconds counting out $400 in $20 bills. I do count to make sure the machine didn’t cheat me, and I have never seen an ATM make an error in either direction.

The teller, on the other hand, required several minutes to count the bills twice before noting on her computer how many $20s she was adding to the cash drawer, and processing the deposit.

And I have seen tellers make a counting error even after a double count. It’s rare, but it happens. More often, I’ve seen them have to do a third or even fourth count because the first two didn’t seem to match. Brand new bills can easily stick together. It’s not hard to count two of them as one.

I’ve also made counting errors before handing the teller the cash. Have you ever been cheated or gifted by an ATM? If it cheated you, were you able to prove it? If it overpaid you, what did you do? Do you have any idea how the machine works to avoid two bills ever being counted as one?

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11 Answers

tom_g's avatar

14 years ago I used one of those mini off-brand ATMs in a local pharmacy (CVS). I requested $60 and it gave me nothing. It took about 4 weeks and many phone calls, but my bank refunded me the $60. I have no idea what they did to research this.

marinelife's avatar

That was what I was going to say. I have seen and read of errors where no cash was dispensed, but that is all.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Yes, at a Wachovia Bank (before they changed names) in Atlanta.

I took out $200 but the machine only dispensed $180 – somehow it counted the $20 bills wrong. They were open at that time and I immediately went in with the receipt. They checked the machine, took a report, etc.

The next day there was a $20 deposit in my account; I figured that they did their audit and decided I was right.,

gailcalled's avatar

Only during the many times when it refused to recognize my pin number.

wildpotato's avatar

No, an ATM ha never given me the incorrect amount of cash.

Those of you who have tried to make a withdraw but nothing happened, you may have been victims of an old scam specific to ATMs that had little plastic slots on the top and bottom that retracted when money was dispensed. People would glue the slots together, so the money is actually dispensed – but behind the slots so it looks like nothing happened but some whirring. The person trying to use the ATM walks away puzzled, and the thief comes back later, unseals the glue, and makes out like a bandit. This is why ATMs are no longer constructed with retractable slots.

tedibear's avatar

It has not happened to me, but it did happen to one of my customers. He used our ATM and then came into the branch. It gave him an extra $90! He knew it wasn’t his and didn’t want to keep it. We checked the ATM from top to bottom physically, as well as looking at transaction records. The customer was only debited for the amount he was supposed to get, and no one ever called to say that they had left their money behind. Nor were there any $90 transactions. Nothing was out of balance anywhere in the system. Neither the ATM or Accounting departments could figure out what happened. Nor could anyone else. That was in February of 1997. I left the branch and went to the training department in May of 1998 and we still had not been told what to do with the money. I assume it was eventually written off to teller overages, but I never did hear.

lillycoyote's avatar

I have never had an ATM give me an incorrect amount of money. But banks generally keep account to the penny so while @elbanditoroso story doesn’t surprise me, @tedibear‘s kind of does; that the bank couldn’t account for the $90 anywhere.

And I don’t know how, exactly, ATMs can be so accurate, particularly because when I get one of those really fresh batches of twenties out of one, I always have to separate and rough them up a little bit to make sure that I don’t inadvertently hand over two twenties that are stuck together. I can’t even assure that I won’t do that so I’m not sure how the machine manages it. If no one comes up with the answer I will ask my next door neighbor. Up until about a year ago he worked for Diebold repairing and doing maintenance servicing on their ATMs. I would think he knows how it’s done.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote I’m guessing that was money someone forgot to take, and so the machine balanced.

@mattbrowne Thanks. Same here.

lillycoyote's avatar

@ETpro I totally forgot about this question. I was going to ask my neighbor, the ATM service/repair guy about this and forgot. I have a big dry erase board that I put my to do/reminders on, and usually it is reserved for bigger things like: Property taxes due June 23! DMV – tags need to be renewed by July 31, 2012; Get Lizzie spayed!!!! That sort of thing, but I have added: Ask Stosh how ATMs dispense money so accurately, so hopefully I will remember.

ETpro's avatar

@lillycoyote I am breathlessly looking forward to the Stosh Report. :-)

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