Dutch media are reporting that a hoax caused banks to shut down their ATM’s last Wednesday.
At first rumors were spreading via Hyves (Facebook type of site) and Twitter suggesting that people could withdraw money at no cost because of a system failure at the ING bank.
As a result of that (real) system failure the ING bank indeed had decided to shut down all its ATM’s as a precaution. However, that shutdown measure triggers another system enabling customers to still go and withdraw a maximum of 250 euros at an alternative bank. Since those banks could not check whether those ING customers still had money on their bank accounts (because the ING systems were indeed down) ING customers ‘in the red’ were still able to withdraw money.
The latter made people believe the ATM’s were providing ‘free money’ and that message spreaded like wildfire.
At various places people were queuing up at ATM’s and other banks noticed an extreme increase of activity at their ATM’s. Hence they shut down their systems too.
One of the relevant regulators has stated that he considers this to be a new phenomenon, that they take this matter very seriously and that banks will have to look into the effects of social media on the financial market.
Dutch language article: http://blog.spitsnet.nl/2010/08/13/paniek-na-run-op-geld/