Don't spend money that doesn't belong to you!

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I've said it before (more than once, actually), and it appears I'm going to have to say it again. If money that's not yours appears in your bank account, do not spend it. I know it's not yours. You know it's not yours. And it's only a matter of time before the bank finally admits it's not yours. But it's apparently too easy to pretend you've won the lottery or some secret person has given you a large gift, right? Well, Herbert Starbird and his wife found out the hard way that they shouldn't spend money that didn't belong to them.

Their bank account showed a deposit of $280,277 in October. Herbert knew he didn't deposit that money and that it didn't belong to him . He says he called the bank several times and was told that the deposit was accurate. So Herbert and his wife promptly began spending the money, and then the bank said the deposit was a mistake. (Duh!) The bank tried to take the money back, but over $157,000 of it was already spent. The bank says that Herbert never brought the error to the bank's attention. They're suing the Starbirds to get the money back.

Sorry, but mistake or no mistake, the Starbirds should not have spent that money. They should have tried harder to give it back to the bank, because they knew it was not theirs. Spending it was just plain wrong -- and stupid.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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