Daniel Saunders The ATM Glitch Guy: The Man Who Spent $1.5 Million On Parties & Private Jets

Like any good man would...

Daniel Saunders The ATM Glitch Guy: The Man Who Spent $1.5 Million On Parties & Private Jets

Image: DMARGE/Vice

Key Points From This Story

  • 29-year-old bartender from the Victorian town of Wangaratta exploited a rare ATM glitch
  • Withdraws $1.6 million AUD, funding a lavish lifestyle with parties and private jets in Europe and the USA.
  • Four-and-a-half-month spree ends in a jail sentence in Australia.

While we cover plenty of millionaires here at DMARGE — from Jeff Bezos and his sprawling property empire to Mark Zuckerberg’s jiujitsu antics — usually these figures have accumulated their vast wealth through legal if not always entirely ethical, means.

Now, in a tale that could be straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, Dan Saunders, a bartender from Wangaratta, Australia, found himself living a millionaire’s lifestyle after an ATM glitch in 2011 very much worked in his favour… for a while.

Saunders’ accidental discovery allowed him to manipulate the bank’s system to withdraw large sums of money far greater than his actual balance, facilitating an extravagant spending spree that included lavish parties and chartering private jets.

How The Heck Did This Happen?

Late one night after leaving a bar, Saunders went to check his bank balance but encountered an error. Through a series of “experimental transactions”, he stumbled on a glitch that allowed withdrawals during a specific window when the ATM systems were offline for maintenance. By transferring money between accounts during these downtimes, he managed to keep these furtive withdrawals from showing up on his account.

Image: Dan Saunders

After seeming to get away with his first withdrawal scot-free, for the next four-and-a-half months, Saunders exploited the same loophole, managing to siphon off a grand total of around $1.6 million AUD. Like any good bloke would, he spent wildly on luxurious experiences and unashamedly enjoyed the perks of his newfound wealth. He claims to have been treated differently by both acquaintances and strangers alike, noticing a distinct shift in how people perceived and interacted with him once he became a rich man.

How It All Fell Apart

However, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that bubble of wealth was not to last. The constant anxiety of being caught, coupled with the sometimes confronting realities of living a lie, soon took their toll. Saunders faced sleepless nights filled with anxiety attacks, fearing every phone call might be the authorities finally catching up to him. Ultimately, the guilt and unsustainable nature of his new lifestyle led him to cease the transfers and contact the bank, confessing to the crime.

Image: Dan Saunders

The legal repercussions were sad but inevitable. Saunders was sentenced to jail on charges of fraud and theft, facing not only a year behind bars but also a subsequent 18-month community corrections order. He was also ordered to pay substantial compensation to the bank; a total of over $200,000 AUD.

Returning to his life as a bartender earning $22 AUD an hour, Saunders reflects on the entire episode with a mix of regret and relief. He says he learned a harsh lesson about the seductive dangers of easy money and the importance of integrity.

How do you think you’d fare in the face of such life-altering temptations? This writer, for one, fears he may not have had the willpower to stop quite so willingly…