Most of us know what it's like to receive one of those "your account is £X overdrawn and unless we get the cash by noon tomorrow we're going to sell your kids for scientific experiments and break your mother's arms and legs" letters, so spare a thought for Joe Martins of Cobb County, Georgia, who was rather surprised to learn that he owed Wachovia Bank a cool $211 trillion - 70 times the entire US federal budget.
Martins had apparently closed an account with Wachovia and "made good on an outstanding check", as Atlanta's WSBTV explains. However, a swift letter from the bank insisted the closing balance was $211,010,028,257,303 in the red - with "no cents", as Wachovia kindly pointed out.
Martins reasonably explained: "I open up the letter and I look at it and I'm like, 'No, you've got to be kidding me'."
Wachovia also informed Martins that it was reporting him to an "agency that rates risky bank customers". He noted: "I don't own $211 trillion but because it is automated and reported to check systems, I assume it will be reported to my credit at some point."
Happily not, because Wachovia assured Martin last week it hadn't reported him for his reckless spending, and blamed the cock-up on a "word processing error".
The bank's vice president David Oliver said: "We can certainly understand how our recent correspondence with Mr Martins about his account would be cause for great concern. I can confirm that there will be no adverse effect on Mr Martins' credit report related to the letter he received. Also, I can confirm that this was an isolated error specifically related to his account." ®
Ta very much to Max Strempel for the tip-off.