[rescue] Perverse Question
Sheldon T. Hall
shel at cmhcsys.com
Fri Jun 20 09:38:15 CDT 2003
Phil Stracchino wrote ...
> I'm reminded of the case of a guy working for Barclays Bank in the late
> 60s or early 70s who discovered that when the bank's computers did
> account interest calculations, they rounded the interest down to the
> nearest half-penny and discarded the remainder back to the bank. He
> modified the code to deposit all the remainders into a private account
> instead, which he'd then transfer the balance out of to a different
> bank once a month.
> If memory serves, he managed to pick up something like 24,000 to 26,000
> sterling per year for about three and a half years before being caught,
> at which juncture he pointed out to the bank that they couldn't very
> well prosecute him, because if he'd been stealing from the bank, then
> the bank had been stealing from all its customers.
> After some study and consideration, the bank's legal department advised
> them that he was right: if he was guilty of misappropriating funds, then
> so was the bank. So all they could do was ask him to leave, to which he
> said, "Fair enough." He didn't care that much about losing his job; he
> was set by then anyway. Most-of-90,000 pounds sterling circa 1970 was a
> *lot* of money.
That technique was known when I was working at the bank, in the early
seventies; I think it was mentioned in some book about "Computer Crime." Of
course, it also provided what plot there was in the famous movie "Office
My favorite story from the "Oops" file is the guy who borrows the money to
buy a new car, and gets the payment book from the bank. In those days, the
payment coupons were just slips of paper, and someone at the bank punched in
the information when you sent it in with your check.
Well, in due time, the chap has to make his first payment, and he takes out
the last coupon in the book, puts it with his check, and mails it in.
Two weeks later, to his surprise, he receives in the mail a letter from the
bank thanking him for being such a good customer. Attached to the letter is
the note he'd signed, marked "PAID IN FULL".
Of course, programming inexperience being the general case in those days,
the program that generated the letter only checked the payment number, but
not whether any previous payments had been made. You can imagine the COBOL
IF COUPON-NUMBER EQUALS "36" THEN GOTO MAIL-ALL-PAID.
The book said that in response to his carefully-worded telephone call and
offer to do some consulting, the bank was quite happy to pay him several
thousand dollars to hear him tell his story.
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