A broke barman has revealed how he felt like a ‘caveman discovering fire’ when he stumbled across a way to take almost a million pounds out of a dodgy cash machine – before he blew it all on a playboy lifestyle.
Dan Saunders was 29 when he came across a glitch in an ATM machine that allowed him to take out cash using his credit card without being charged in February 2011.
Saunders, from Wangaratta, Australia, then went on a massive spending spree over the course of four months – buying flights on private jets, trips to private islands and even high class escorts – after withdrawing almost £1million.
He eventually felt so guilty and suffered panic attacks that he turned himself in and served a year in jail.
Despite the law catching up with him in the end, Saunders told the Sun Online that he has no regrets.
Despite the apparent lack of cash left, Saunders is content with the amazing memories he has
He had been on a night out when his card was declined as he tried to buy a round of drinks.
So Saunders – who at the time was earning £500 a week as a barman – headed to an ATM machine.
Even though his account only had £3, he clicked to withdraw £100 anyway – and it worked.
A glitch meant that he was able to withdraw money from his credit card without being charged when the machines were ‘offline’ between 12am and 1am.
He returned to his friends, but said the lure of the faulty machine was too much and he returned for more cash.
‘Being able to withdraw hundreds with the stroke of a key was a very addictive thing – I felt like a caveman discovering fire,’ he told the Sun Online.
Although the charges appeared in his account as minus figures the following day, he was still able to withdraw more money at midnight the following day.
The law did eventually catch up and Saunders spent a year behind bars for obtaining money by deception and was also fined $250,000
And shockingly, his bank didn’t notice.
So Saunders began splashing the cash – buying drinks for his friends, eating at the best restaurants and throwing raucous parties.
As his account slipped further into the red, he resolved to stop when the bank put a stop to his antics – but they never did.
He tried to win the money he had spent by gambling but before long, he’d lost his job for gambling while on duty and been dumped by his girlfriend.
But he’d become accustomed to living the high life so he continued.
During the spending spree Saunders bought designer clothes and treated friends and family to whatever they fancied
Dan Saunders, 29 at the time, splashed $1.6 million on expensive alcohol, trips to private islands and lavish shopping sprees
‘People who think you’ve got money, they treat you differently,’ he said, adding that cash especially attracted the opposite sex.
So he continued to flaunt his supposed wealth – splashing out on five-star hotel stays, Hugo Boss suits and high-end escorts.
In April, he flew two escorts by helicopter to the Blue Mountains on Australia’s east coast to stay at a resort costing more than £1,000 a night.
But his most extravagant purchase was for a 20-seat chartered jet to a private resort island near Bali, which cost almost £50,000.
He also spent some of the cash on altruism, paying off tuition fees for friends and paying for one to study in France.
HOW THE ATM ‘LOOPHOLE’ WORKED
– Saunders would transfer money from credit to his savings account while ATM system was ‘offline’
-The ATM would read ‘transaction cancelled’ – but still dished out the money
– Saunders took advantage of a loophole in the system which meant the ATM couldn’t record transactions during late-night maintenance – but still dispensed cash
– The withdrawal would not register on his account – effectively giving him free cash
– He continued withdrawing and the bank didn’t catch up – instead they would call to verify it was him spending the money and wish him well
– He also tricked the ATM by transferring money from his ‘credit’ option to his Mastercard… even though he only had one credit card
‘For me, it was never about the money. It was about experiences and what I could do with this magic ATM card,’ Saunders said in a recent interview.
‘I had seen people in that life across the bar and I had wanted to experience it, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
‘I also wanted to give my friends a taste of it, so I asked them what their dreams were and made them come true. I guess you could say that my dream was to see people having a great time and living out their fantasies.’
Saunders said his friends didn’t believe his story about the ATM hack and he kept it a secret from his family.
But then, he began having anxiety attacks and worried about getting caught.
By June 2011, he had blown all the money so he contacted the bank and told them what happened.
They said the police would be in touch with him – but he didn’t hear from them.
As his conscience continued to weigh on him, he began seeing therapists – and one suggested he would feel better if he turned himself in.
Saunders approached numerous local newspapers with his story and even gave an on-camera interview to news programme A Current Affair.
But it was three years before he was arrested on more than 100 counts of fraud and theft.
He was freed in May 2016 after a year behind bars – and is now back working behind a bar for £12.50 an hour.
In a new interview with ACA, he said he has no regrets.
‘Sure, sometimes life can seem a bit mundane and boring after what I experienced, but that’s OK,’ he said.
‘Not everything in life needs to be totally exhilarating, and there’s a lot of joy to be found in normal, ordinary life.’