How bank transfers go wrong

Updated: 
MoneyLearn when you can get your money back from bad money transfers – and when you simply have to be more careful.

When we try to transfer money to UK or foreign accounts it doesn't always go smoothly. We may enter incorrect details, experience delays, or send our money to scammers. Sometimes, thousands of pounds is at stake.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) has released some case studies that help us to see when we can blame our bank and get our money back. It also shows when we only have ourselves to blame, and so need to take extra care.

Let's learn from the mistakes of others with bank transfers, as well as the successes they've had at getting their money back after a bank error.


Customer enters wrong details for money transfer
Mr P attempted to transfer £1,000 to his daughter's account, but a week later it was revealed the money went to a different account. Mr P had entered an incorrect digit.

Although on this occasion the bank was able to recall the money, Mr P complained to the bank and then the Ombudsman that the bank should have checked that the account number and name matched.

The Ombudsman ruled against Mr P, saying that the bank's online transfer screen makes it clear that the account name would not used to process the payment.

Bank delays cause customer to lose out on overseas transfer
Mrs F tried to transfer £90,000 to France through her bank. The bank couldn't carry out the transaction without speaking to Mrs F for security reasons so, over several days, Mrs F tried calling them without success. Eventually she made the one-hour round trip to a branch, which completed the transaction for her.

In this time, the exchange rate moved against her and she lost out.

The bank refused to reimburse her. She complained to the Ombudsman who thought the bank hadn't done everything it could have to ensure the transfer took place in a reasonable time. It ordered the bank to make up the difference, plus £150 compensation for the inconvenience caused.

Customer complains transfer was too fast!
Mr G sent £1,000 overseas but realised he'd been scammed the next day. His bank told him it had tried its best to recall the money. However, the transfer had already taken place and there was nothing it could do.

Mr G complained that the bank had not told him the transfer would go through instantly and he wouldn't have done it if he had known. The Ombudsman sympathised with Mr G for being the victim of a scam, but not enough to side with his arguments. The Ombudsman was also satisfied the bank had done more than enough to try to help its customer.

Make sure there's enough money in the account
Miss D asked her bank how much money was in her account to ensure she had enough before making a transfer. She was told she had £1,500 based on the balance at close of business the day before, so Miss D proceeded with a £500 transfer. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough money in her account at the time of the transfer, so it was not completed at the expected time.

She complained to the Ombudsman that the bank had not been clear enough. The Ombudsman listened to the recording of Miss D's telephone conversation with her bank, and was satisfied that the bank had explained the situation to her. It rejected Miss D's complaint.

Customer given no opportunity to confirm payment details
Mr B transferred £150 online but sent it to the wrong recipient. He contacted his bank immediately to try to correct it and waited for a call back, which didn't come. He tried calling three more times. The bank eventually told him it was his fault and there was probably nothing they could have done to stop it.

He complained to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman found that the bank didn't give Mr B sufficient opportunity to check the details he entered were correct, in particular offering no "final confirmation" page. It also established there was a good chance the bank could have stopped the transaction if it had acted promptly.

It ordered the bank to reimburse Mr B, plus £75 for the inconvenience it had caused.

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