Julia Yonkowski thought she became the 615th richest person in the world when an ATM displayed nearly $1 billion in her bank account. The Florida woman was stunned, especially since she was only visiting the automated banking machine to withdraw a $20 bill.

In a flash, it seemed Yonkowski, from Largo, had become a billionaire overnight because of a discrepancy with Chase Bank. The $999,985,855.94 receipt was jaw-dropping, but it was soon revealed that what she thought was a mistake, was an intentional step by Chase Bank.

Headlines were quick to cover the world’s newest billionaire, though Julia Yonkowski assured reporters that she wouldn’t be taking the money. “I know I’ve read stories about people that took the money or took out money, and then they had to repay it and I wouldn’t do that anyway because it’s not my money,” she said, admitting that the whole situation was nerve-wracking.

“When I put in for the $20, the machine came back and said we’ll give you the $20 but that’ll cause an overdraft and you will be charged and I said, ‘Oh just forget it,’” she explained. When she saw the balance, nearly $1 billion was displayed from the ATM receipt. “Oh my God, I was horrified. I know most people would think they won the lottery but I was horrified,” she admitted, claiming she hasn’t touched her account since.

When she tried to reach out to Chase Bank for support on the matter, there was nothing but automated responses. All she wanted to do over the weekend was give the money back, but “I just can’t get through,” she said. “I get tied up with their automated system and I can’t get a person.” 

Becoming a billionaire overnight isn’t the dream many might make it out to be, though. Julia Yonkowski was more nervous than ever. “It kind of scares me because you know with cyber threats,” she said. “You know I don’t know what to think.”

Yonkowski said that she was worried that her own money was compromised. With the lack of communication from Chase Bank over the weekend, the lady from Largo was even more nervous, as the bank account continued to display the nearly $1 billion into Monday. 

Though it seems like a mistake out of a movie, the ATM mixup was actually an intentional action by Chase Bank. Spokeswomen Amy Bonitatibus told the New York Post Tuesday morning that Yonkowski’s $1 billion receipt was not a positive balance and she was not an overnight billionaire. Instead, the $999,985,855.94 was a negative balance that the bank posted “to draw her attention to an issue with her account.”

Julia Yonkowski thought she became a billionaire after a Chase ATM displayed nearly $1 billion in her bank account.
Julia Yonkowski thought she became a billionaire after a Chase ATM displayed nearly $1 billion in her bank account. Photo Credit: Elliott Cowand Jr / Shutterstock.com

According to Bonitatibus, “our local branch and customer service group spoke to Mrs. Yonkowski yesterday to clarify the discrepancy.” It isn’t clear if the mix-up has been resolved and if the issue with Julia Yonkowski’s account is settled. 

Though it seemed the Florida woman accidentally received a life-changing amount of money, it was actually a ploy by her bank to get her attention. The mistake, however, is not unbelievable, given that banks have mistakenly rewarded millions of dollars to unsuspecting customers.

Two years ago, Legacy Texas accidentally deposited $37 million into a woman’s bank account. Ruth Balloon was astounded, but her husband told her to contact the bank immediately. It turned out to be a clerical error and Legacy Bank took back its wealth, leaving Balloon with only an apology as compensation. 

Still, the story was worth the trouble. “I was a millionaire,” Balloon said. “I have a screenshot of it, so I can say that now. It’s quite a story.” She admitted that no matter what the cause, she wouldn’t have kept the money if it wasn’t hers. She was hoping that the bank would gift her a finders’ fee, but all she got was an apology.