Origins: The deposit slip is becoming scarce as more and more people receive payments through direct deposits and use automated teller machines which do not require deposit slips. Before all these means of electronic bookkeeping were established, however, a typical Friday ritual was to trudge to the local bank with one's paycheck, fill out a deposit slip, and stand in line to deposit the check. Some people used the deposit slips that were furnished with their checkbooks and had their account numbers already printed on them, but those who didn't carry deposit slips with them (such as customers who had only savings accounts) typically used the blank slips provided by their banks in every branch office. Banks preferred that their customers use pre-printed slips, because those slips included the customers' account numbers printed in the machine-readable magnetic ink used by their data processing systems and could be sorted automatically, but slips lacking printed account numbers were singled out by the machines for manual sorting. (As well, when customers had to fill in their own account numbers on deposit slips, they sometimes got them wrong, wrote them illegibly, or forgot to include them at all.)
If a deposit slip should somehow include both a printed account number and a handwritten one, the sorting machines would process it based solely on the printed number, which gave rise to an ingenious scam:
Other customers streamed into the bank and, dipping into the trays of deposit slips, innocently recorded their own deposits in the usual
I surreptitiously pocketed a sheaf of the deposit slips, returned to my apartment and, using
The following morning, I returned to the bank and just as stealthily put the sheaf of deposit slips back in a slot atop a stack of others. I didn't know if my plot would succeed or not, but it was worth a risk. Four days later I returned to the bank and made a $250 deposit. "By the way, what's my balance, please?" I asked the teller. "I forgot to enter some checks I wrote this week."
The teller obligingly called bookkeeping. "Your balance, including this deposit, it $42,876.45,
Just before the bank closed, I returned and drew out $40,000 in a cashier's check, explaining I was buying a home. I didn't buy a home, of course, but I sure did feather my nest.2