Jack had heard about this scam from an employee of the bank. A friend of one of the guys in the house, who’d come to visit. According to this friend, the bank had been caught out several times and, as yet, had not decided what to do about it. It was a time between technologies, between methodologies. IT was here to stay but no-one had decided exactly where it was going to live.
The next day found Jack standing in the queue at the bank branch inside the student’s union. Dressed in jeans, a cheese-cloth shirt and a battered biker jacket, he fancied he looked very much the student. In his pocket: a fake student ID (not difficult to do in those days of stick-on photographs) and two hundred borrowed pounds. Jack explained that he would like to open a deposit account. He had two hundred pounds to deposit. He gave the name and date of birth on the card and an address a few streets from the house. The teller took the money, opened the account and explained that a deposit book would be sent to the address within a fortnight. When Jack wished to make further deposits or withdrawals, would he please bring the deposit book and student union card with him. Jack nodded his agreement and thanked the young bank teller. A few days later, Jack was back at the student’s union branch armed with his card but minus his deposit book, which had not, of course, arrived. Jack explained that he had an emergency situation and needed to withdraw his money. All of it? Did he wish to close the account? Well no, Jack would like to keep the account open and didn’t need quite all of the money, but a hundred and ninety … just temporarily, for a few weeks. The teller wanted to see Jack’s student I.D. and asked him his address and date of birth, as further proof of identity. Jack reeled off his lines and pocketed his money. So far, so good.
What this bank employee, this friend of one of the guys in the house had let on, was that although computers were used in the bank to keep track of, amongst other things, bank balances, they were only updated once a day. After the bank had closed, all the day’s transactions were ‘posted’ to the computer system in a ‘batch’. Until the computer received the days ‘post’ it was ignorant of all deposits and withdrawals that may have occured that day.
So, now for the risky bit. Jack hived down to the main branch of the bank in the city. He queued up, this time all too aware that he looked like something the cat had dragged in. He reached the counter and repeated his story. The teller looked at him, looked at his student’s card, asked him the same questions then told him to wait. She went to look something up on the computer. Jack began to have second thoughts about this. How long do you get for robbing a bank? For a hundred and eighty quid? The woman returned, gave Jack a banking slip and asked him to queue up at a different counter. Jack forced his legs to work and made it to the counter the teller had indicated. There was, of course, a queue. He waited; five minutes, ten minutes. It was becoming hot. Where was all the air? Fifteen minutes, then …. Mr. Moran? A voice from the back of the bank. An open-plan space full of people, older people, with terminals, printouts and very serious demeanours. Everyone was looking at Jack. Have you ever had a bank account before? No, Jack shook his head and prayed for an earthquake … and then he was there, at the front of the queue. He handed the banking slip to the woman, careful not to look up. The woman looked at the paper, looked up at Jack and then began to count out the money … a hundred and seventy, eighty, ninety. She squared the notes and then counted them again. Jack was convinced that he’d peed himself, he glanced towards the door … don’t run, don’t run, don’t run … Mr Moran? The teller was offering the cash. Jack took the money, folded it over and fastened it into a button-down pocket on the front of his shirt. His fingers would not do up the button. He started to panic. Deep breath, managed to smile thank you to the teller and turned towards the door, still trying to do up the button on his pocket. His legs felt like jelly. He willed himself not to run. God, was he going too slowly? Was he moving at all? He caught sight of the expression on his own face; he looked as though he was about to have a heart attack. He was about to have a heart attack … and then he was outside. He’d done it. He’d ripped off a bank.