Search icon


10th Sep 2022

Man went on a four-month bender after discovering ATM glitch that gave him millions

Charlie Herbert

Man went on a four-month bender after discovering ATM glitch that gave him millions

His story is now being made into a film

A bartender in Australia briefly lived a life of luxury after discovering an ATM glitch that saw him spend A$1.6 million (£944,000).

Dan Saunders worked out the hack could give him unlimited cash, and for four months he lived the life of Riley, splashing out on private jets and high-end restaurants.

He discovered the glitch on a fateful night in 2011 when he was out drinking in Melbourne. When Dan went to a cash machine to check his bank balance and get some money out, he noticed the ATM he was trying to use was acting strangely and wouldn’t show his balance.

Dan later told Vice: “I transferred $200 (£117) from my credit account to my savings, and it said ‘transaction cancelled’ and spat the card out. I thought that was super odd, so I decided to try and get $200 out of my savings account just to see what would happen.”

Sure enough, it worked. After a few more drinks he decided to see how far he could go with it, and returned to the machine.

“I’d been thinking about how odd the whole thing was, so I put the card in again and started playing around,” he recalled. “I transferred another $200 (£117) and got the money out. Then $500 (£293), then $600 (£351), just to see what would happen.”

He’d landed on a glitch in the system. In turned out that the ATM disconnected from the bank and the internet between 1am and 3am. Dan quickly took advantage and withdrew hundreds and then thousands of dollars.

“On the first day, I spent $2,000 (£1,170), but on the second day, I transferred $4,000 (£2,341) to make sure my balance didn’t stay negative,” he said. “The transfer at night would go through, then reverse one day later. But if you stayed ahead of that reversal by doing another one, you could trick the system into thinking you had millions.”

For four months, he lived the dream, partying and travelling the world. He chartered private flights, paid off friends’ student loans and even paid for homeless people to have a place to stay for the night, saying he “felt like a rockstar.”

Although the bank would call every now and then to make sure certain transactions had been made by him, they hadn’t noticed the glitch and never mentioned or questioned it.

But gradually, Dan was getting more and more nervous about his big spending, to the extent that on one occasion he had a nightmare about a “SWAT team out the front of the hotel I was staying in.”

So he eventually came clean to the bank, who unsurprisingly told him he was in “big trouble” and that they would be alerting the police.

However, Dan heard nothing from the authorities for two years. After seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety and guilt, Dan decided to turn himself in to the police – but not before sharing his story on national television.

In the end, he was sentenced to 12 months in jail on theft and fraud charges in 2015, and was released with an 18-month community corrections order.

On his release he initially returned to his job as a barman, but now  he’s writing his life story, which is also being turned into a film.

“It was really just a case of ‘bad Dan, cop a whack’,” he later said.

Related links: