You’re unlikely to find anyone who’s ever typed even one document who’s never made a typo. They happen all the time and not even because we don’t know how to spell or can’t type. It’s just that sometimes our brains get ahead of us. You already know what you planned to say, so the typo will often go unnoticed because you understand what you’re trying to say.
While that makes typos seem harmless and natural, the unfortunate reality is that they can still have major, real-world repercussions that can end up costing a lot.
10. The Billion Dollar Heist Typo
Once upon a time, if you wanted to do your banking, you literally had to go to a bank. Can you even imagine? These days, there are major international banks that don’t even have physical locations you can visit. The prevalence of online banking means that financial crimes can happen remarkably fast and behind everyone’s back, which is no doubt a bad thing. But if there is an upside, it’s that sometimes an online thief can suffer a typo that blows the whole scheme.
In 2016, hackers stole the credentials from the Bangladesh central bank and initiated a bank transfer. They began making transfer requests to take money from the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States, where Bangladesh holds a hell of a lot of money, and send it to some random accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The thieves managed to transfer around $81 million, which made it already one of the biggest heists in Bangladesh history. But then the thieves messed up. On the next transfer, for $20 million, someone typed in the name “Shalika Fandation” as the recipient of the transfer to an account in Sri Lanka. But that’s not a thing. They meant to type “Shalika Foundation.”
Because of the error, the transfer couldn’t go through. It also flagged the transfer and made someone investigate. That, in turn, meant subsequent transactions were also put on hold, and those totaled somewhere between $850 and $870 million. Officials cancelled the transactions once it was confirmed that they were illegal, but of that initial $81 million, only a small portion was recovered.
9. The Typo That Killed a 124-Year-Old Business
Choosing the right name for a business can have far reaching consequences. Just ask the onetime owners of Taylor and Sons Ltd. The Welsh engineers had been around from 1875 until 2009, when the government listed them as out of business and in liquidation. This made creditors and suppliers panic and pull out of the business.
The company was perfectly fine. The real problem was Taylor and Son Ltd. That company, with a single son, not plural, was out of business. The government had mistyped who was who on their official documents. And even though the error was fixed within three days, it didn’t matter. They’d lost their customers who dropped them and found new partners in that short period.
Taylor and Sons ended up suing the government for destroying their livelihood and they did win, eventually. The court awarded them $17.2 million. That may seem like a lot, but remember, this was a 124-year-old business that had 250 employees and had some customers that were worth millions of dollars a piece. And it took four years to collect that money.
8. The Mistyped Vintage Beer Bottle
Some drinks get better with age, like Scotch or wine. Some don’t. Beer is generally one of those things you don’t want to have after it gets too old. On the other hand, if it’s so old as to be historically significant, its value will increase. That’s why someone sold a 160-year-old bottle of beer on eBay, hoping to get some cash.
The Allsopp’s Arctic Ale was a collector’s item and one of the rarest bottles of beer in the world. It sold in 2009 for $304. Not too bad for a bottle of old hooch you can’t even drink. But it wasn’t good, either.
The seller had mistyped “Allsopp.” They listed it as “Allsop” missing the second “p,” so if someone was looking for the rare bottle, they might have missed it. And this is incredibly important because the seller who bought it for $304 re-listed it and sold it with the correct name for $503,300.
So did the seller cash in on a $500,000 typo? Not exactly. Any massive auction on eBay is worth scrutiny. The winning bid was a joke, and the bidder did not pay. But other bidders who have legit feedback with over 1000 ratings were into the bottle for up to $78,000. Still, they didn’t win. But that probably won’t comfort the guy who sold it for $304.
7. A $225 Million Stock Trade Typo
Have you ever had occasion to transpose numbers completely by accident? Like if you’re looking for a house at 1234 Cherry Lane, but in your head it becomes 3412 Cherry Lane somehow? It probably happens to a lot of people and it’s little more than a nuisance when you realize you messed up and need to start something over again to fix it. But when those numbers come with dollar signs, or in this case, yen symbols attached, things get ugly.
In 2016, a company called Mizuho Securities Company tried to list a single share of J-Com Co. for 610,000 yen, which worked out to around $5000. Instead, they offered 610,000 shares for one yen each. One yen is worth less than a penny. That blunder ended up costing the company a total of $225 million. Considering the company’s profits for the previous year were $233 million, the error essentially wiped them out. The stock exchange refused to cancel the transaction because it’s against the rules, although a full investigation was planned to prevent similar errors from happening.
6. The Kickstarter Typo
By September 2021, Kickstarter campaigns had raised $6.29 billion. The biggest campaign ever on the site was for the Pebble watch, which pulled in a whopping $20 million. There’s clearly a lot of money changing hands on the site and the last thing anyone wants to do is jeopardize that with a typo, but it happens.
Cameron Moll, an author and designer, was running a Kickstarter for the Brooklyn Bridge in letterpress type. Basically, it was an image of the bridge, but it was constructed entirely of typeface letters. It was a very intricate and detailed piece of work and the final product that backers could get was a 24×16 print, plus those who pledged more could get signed copies and other perks. And it was a huge success. Moll got backed for just under $65,000. Yet in the end, he only made about $7,900. So what happened? A typo.
Moll had managed to build up a lot of expenses before he even got to this typo, including $15,000 for a loan that covered trips to Brooklyn and camera equipment and other such expenses. Another $10,000 went to printing. Postage and shipping came close to another $10,000. At the end of all things, he had about $14,000 profit. Then someone pointed out that the print said “Brookyln” with the “L” and the “Y” switched around. So he had to spend $7,000 more on fixing it. Makes you wonder how much of that $6.29 billion anyone got to bank.
5. The Hurricane Harvey Insurance Payout
When your own typo costs you dearly, it’s frustrating. When someone else’s typo does it, it can be infuriating. Imagine how the owner of a Texas bait shop felt when she lost her business to Hurricane Harvey and then discovered her insurance wouldn’t pay out because they had mistyped her address.
The owner had a claim for $60,000 as the business was totally destroyed. Her agent had written “1590 Hwy 361” instead of “1950 Hwy 361.” When he realized the error, he called the insurer, Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, to explain matters. They wouldn’t fix the error or pay her claim because that was not the address she’d insured.
The good news is that, after media attention and many months of waiting, the insurance company finally reversed their decision. Would they have done so without the story getting attention? Probably best not to think about it.
4. The NFT Typo
NFTs are big business these days and some sell for tens of millions of dollars. Love them or hate them, they are making people rich. But if you want to make money, you need to watch your fingers. Just ask Max, the NFT seller, for was planning to sell one for 75 Ethereum, which at the time was around $300,000.
He sold it for 0.75 Ethereum instead, which was closer to $4,000. He realized right away what happened, but it was bought for the lower price before he could cancel.
3. The $10 Million Yellow Pages Typo
If you weren’t around in the 1980s, you may not be aware that people had to look through a giant book called the Yellow Pages to find phone numbers for businesses. A business’ livelihood could very much be tied to those pages because if they weren’t listed or were listed incorrectly, they had no way to reach customers. That’s what happened to the Banner Travel Agency. They were supposed to have an ad that told people they offered exotic vacations. The Yellow Pages made a typo that listed “erotic vacations.”
The owner filed a $10 million suit against the Pacific Bell, who published the Yellow Pages. She said she lost much of her legitimate business and was routinely being harassed with obscene phone calls. Pacific Bell had to pay up and nearly went out of business as a result.
2. PPP Loan Decimal Point Typo
After Covid-19 hit, many employers relied on PPP loans to keep their businesses afloat. The government forgave a lot of those loans, but the paperwork had to be filled out exactly right. One Texas business over who received $13,000 learned that the hard way.
She applied for loan forgiveness but misplaced the decimal point. Instead of $13,000, she asked for $1,300. The government happily obliged and the $1,300 was forgiven. That left her on the hook for almost $12,000.
You’d think a typo like that would be easy enough to fix, but apparently once the paperwork is processed, it’s a finished matter. Despite the owner’s best efforts, she was unable to find any way to change things and will have to pay the remainder of the loan back.
1. The Organic Kitty Litter Nuclear Waste Explosion
Nuclear waste is not something you can just flush down a toilet. It needs to be stored properly, and if something messes up, it messes up bad. Real bad. Two billion dollars bad.
In 2014, a drum of nuclear waste in the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad, New Mexico, broke open. Radioactive americium, plutonium and uranium exploded out of it. The cause of the explosion was linked to nitric acid, salt, and organic kitty litter.
Kitty litter is used in the storage of nuclear waste. It can help absorb contaminated fluids. But the key is it needs to be clay litter. Inorganic clay litter. Someone mistyped instructions as organic litter, which is made from wheat. Wheat litter is cellulose and that burns. That essentially was the base for turning the drum into a dirty bomb.
Improperly transcribed hand-written notes were blamed. The cleanup was pegged at potentially reaching $2 billion.