I recently read the story of a person who lost tens of thousands of pounds, all down to a small, unfortunate mistake. It got me to thinking – are the safeguards in place for internet banking really stringent enough?
In a nutshell, the story was about a person who’d set up a monthly transfer of £1,000 from their current account into a joint savings account. However, the person had typed one digit of the account number they were transferring to incorrectly, causing the money to be sent to a complete stranger’s account.
A very expensive mistake
After two years the error was finally discovered. By then, more than £26,000 had been paid to the lucky recipient, who now maintains that all the money has been spent and cannot be repaid.
Neither bank will pay the money back to the account holder, as they maintain that the mistake was the customer’s. They also claim there’s a risk of fraud if repayments are made to people who accidentally credit the wrong accounts.
The account holder entered her surname along with the sort code and account number when setting up the direct debit. But when banks transfer money, only the sort code and account number are referenced. If the banks had compared the names on the accounts, they may have noticed the mistake.
Where does responsibility lie?
I found myself in a situation recently where I had to use telephone banking as my online service was down. I was fine remembering my customer number and partial PIN, but struggled to remember the telephone-password I’d set up ages ago. So I was bounced out, highlighting great security, but a reminder for me to find some way to help me keep on top of multiple passwords.
With the banks, there’s a bit of a grey area when people lose out as a result of an honest mistake and instances such as this clearly have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
So, should we take more responsibility for the details we provide when managing our finances, or it is down to the banks to devise foolproof systems that will prevent the type of situations outlined above?