It sounds like something straight out of a movie: an unsatisfied bank programmer discovers the perfect scheme for making an ATM spit out free money.
But apparently, this story is true: The South China Morning Post and China’s Daily Economic News report that 43-year-old Qin Qisheng managed to withdraw over 7 million yuan (upwards of $1 million USD) from ATMs operated by his employer, Huaxia Bank — all by exploiting a crazy flaw.
According to the reports, the bank’s system didn’t properly record withdrawals made around midnight — effectively spitting out cash without removing the total from a user’s account. Normally, that might send up a red flag that a transaction had failed, but Qisheng allegedly inserted scripts into the system that suppressed those alerts.
Qisheng started pulling out money in November 2016, but it wasn’t until January 2018, some 1,358 withdrawals later, that the bank discovered the bad code in its system and brought him to the authorities.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this story: the bank didn’t want to keep pressing charges once he’d returned the money. Maybe fearing the bad publicity (apparently the flaw has already been fixed), Huaxia Bank reportedly asked police to drop the case — reportedly accepting Qisheng’s explanation that he was merely testing the bank’s security and was holding onto the money for the bank to reclaim. As one does.
The courts refused, though, and Qisheng is now looking at 10 and a half years in prison after losing his appeal. They didn’t buy the argument, considering that he’d moved the money to his personal bank account, instead of the bank’s dummy account, and had apparently been investing some in the stock market, too.
We’ve seen some big, coordinated ATM heists in recent years, and the FBI has warned of more, but it’s a little more fun to imagine this one guy saving up his ill-gotten gains for a retirement like none other.