More than half of people wrongly believe the recipient's name is checked when they send a payment online or using their mobile phone, a survey has found.
Payments industry trade association Payments UK found 55% of people incorrectly believe the name of the person receiving an electronic payment is checked, and a further 6% wrongly believe the recipient's post code is checked.
In reality, electronic payments are only addressed using the recipient's sort code and their account number.
Payments UK has published a new guide offering tips on how to avoid making errors when sending payments in this way.
The rise of online banking and mobile payments means that more people are keying in bank account numbers and sort codes themselves - and a slip of the finger could mean that a payment ends up in the account of a stranger instead of that of the intended recipient. Once the money is sent, it can be difficult to claw it back.
In 2015, more than two-thirds (69%) of account holders used online banking to manage their current account, while one in three (33%) used mobile banking services.
Maurice Cleaves, chief executive of Payments UK, said: "The ability to send an electronic payment 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is something that has become second nature in the UK.
"Although the overwhelming majority of payments are sent to the correct destination, we hope our new research and advice will hammer home the importance of using the right account sort code and account number."
In straightforward wrong payment cases, where there is clear evidence of a genuine mistake, money can be returned within 20 working days.
If someone realises they have made a wrong payment, they should tell their bank or building society, which will take action within a maximum of two working days.
Where there is evidence of a genuine mistake, the account provider will contact the receiving bank with a request to prevent the money being mistakenly spent.
As long as the claim is not disputed, the person who made the wrong payment will get a refund within 20 working days of notifying their bank.
In cases that are not clear cut, the recipient will still be contacted by their bank to ask for consent to debit their account. But no funds would be removed without the consent of the receiving customer.
If it is not possible to claw the money back, for example if the recipient disputes the return of the cash, the sender will be told within 20 working days from the point of their enquiry.
If the funds cannot be recovered, court action may be the next step. Anyone who intentionally spends money that does not belong to them is committing a crime, which can be reported to the police.
Anyone who is unhappy with the service they have received from their bank or building society can also turn to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for help.
Here are some tips from Payments UK to avoid making a wrong payment:
- Always double check the sort code and account number when sending a payment.
- Check the reference. This is particularly important if you are paying a business.
- Does the payee still have the same account? Review your payee lists regularly and delete any you know are no longer being used.
- Send a test. Remind the person you are paying to double check the details they provide. For extra reassurance, you could send a low-value test payment and check the funds are received.
More than 2,000 people were surveyed for the Payments UK research. Its new guide is available at www.payyourway.org.uk/consumer-advice/have-you-paid-wrong-account.