Around 1:50 p.m. Wednesday, Ellen Fleming became a millionaire. Almost immediately, her mind began to race.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, wow, how neat would this be?’ ” Fleming said. “I could quit my job, do whatever I wanted to do, pay off my student loans.”
Unfortunately, none of that panned out. By 2 p.m., she had lost it all. And Thursday morning, Fleming was back at her day job.
“Being a millionaire really was a dream come true for 10 minutes,” she said in a phone interview. “I am very humbled that I lost my money and my family stood by me.”
Fleming’s fleeting stint as a member of the 1 percent came after more than $1 million was accidentally transferred to her TD Ameritrade account this week, a case of mistaken identity that left the 26-year-old scratching her head and wondering what she would do if a sum of money truly had landed in her lap unexpectedly.
The mishap started when a TD Ameritrade financial consultant in the Boston area left a voicemail for Fleming informing her that “a deposit” had been made into an account she has with the company.
Fleming said she had opened a TD Ameritrade account months ago but only added around $50 to her balance and hadn’t thought about it since.
Confused by the voicemail, she launched the company’s app on her smartphone. That’s when she was greeted by a number much higher than expected: A whopping $1.1 million stared back at Fleming from the screen.
For a moment, the devil danced on Fleming’s shoulder, and she contemplated what might happen if she just kept quiet. Then, her conscience kicked in.
“You need to take every opportunity that’s handed to you,” she said. “But that seemed like an opportunity that could lead me to federal prison, so it didn’t seem worth it.”
After talking to her mother to tell her what had happened, Fleming called the financial consultant back, a conversation she said was “extremely uncomfortable” given the sizeable mistake.
The employee, she said, was grateful that she had flagged the problem so quickly.
As it turned out, he explained to her, the money was meant to go into the account of an Ellen Fleming who lived in Florida, but something got “mixed up” along the way, Fleming said.
“There’s some Ellen Fleming out there, living in some alternate universe life in Florida,” she said.
A spokeswoman for TD Ameritrade confirmed Thursday that an “errant deposit temporarily inflated the balance of Ms. Fleming’s account” but was quickly fixed after Fleming called and pointed out the blunder. The account now stands at $63.
Fleming tweeted about the incident Wednesday evening, letting her followers know that when she dies, she might not die rich — but she should be remembered for what occurred.
“Please make sure that in my obituary, I am referred to as ‘One-time millionaire, Ellen Fleming,’ ” she wrote.
A bank account that I had $50 in had over $1 million dollars deposited into it. A banker made a HUGE mistake and confused me with another Ellen Fleming. I was rich for 10 mins & I can tell you, life was in fact better. I'm now humbled from loosing all my money. pic.twitter.com/skwlbUodTY— Ellen Fleming (@EllenFlem) July 18, 2018
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.