Send an email to the wrong person and hopefully the worst you can expect to feel is embarrassed. However, click the proceed button on a large payment before realising you've sent it to the wrong account and your first reaction is likely to be panic.
While advancements in the world of electronic payments are making banking a lot easier, some would say it’s increasing the potential for errors too.
At the touch of a few buttons money can be electronically transferred from one person's account to another, but for this to happen correctly relies on your own accuracy.
However, we all make mistakes and human error is inevitable at times, so what can you do if you realise that you’ve accidentally sent a payment to the wrong account?
Contact your bank or building society as soon as possible. They then have a maximum of two working days to start to try and put things right.
If they find clear evidence of a genuine mistake, they will contact the receiving bank on your behalf with a request to prevent the money being mistakenly spent. As long as the recipient does not dispute your claim, you will subsequently receive a refund of the protected funds within 20 working days from when you notified your bank.
If your bank can’t reclaim the funds immediately – for instance, if the recipient disputes its return – you will be notified of the outcome of their bank's investigation in a maximum of 20 working days from the point of enquiry and usually much sooner.
If your funds cannot be recovered through the standard process, you will be given clear and accurate information on the options available to you – such as court action against the recipient.
These procedures apply to all banks and building societies that connect directly to Faster Payments or Bacs Payment Schemes Limited, covering more than 95% of electronic payments made in the UK.
However, if you don’t receive the help you would expect, you should first follow your bank’s formal complaints procedure, and failing a satisfactory outcome, take the complaint to the Financial Ombudsmen.
Of course, the best way to avoid problems is not to make a mistake in the first place. Banks and building societies go to great lengths to ensure the design of online, mobile and telephone payment channels reduces the risk of customer error.
Typically, this might involve:
Taking your time is the key, but if you do make a mistake, notify your bank as quickly as possible to get the ball rolling to recover your cash – and the same goes if you receive money mistakenly into your account too!
Always double check the sort code and account number before sending a payment: payments are processed only using these numbers and getting them wrong is like sending a letter with the wrong address and postcode. Plans are in place to add Confirmation of Payee, which will mean the name of the person you are paying will also be checked by the banks, however this is not in place just yet.
Disclaimer: This information is intended solely to provide guidance and is not financial advice. Moneyfacts will not be liable for any loss arising from your use or reliance on this information. If you are in any doubt, Moneyfacts recommends you obtain independent financial advice.