A handyman says he has been left thousands of pounds out of pocket after a stranger put £110,000 into his account, which his bank wrongly told him he could keep.
Russell Alexander, 54, was surprised when huge sums of money – up to £50,000 at a time – started appearing in his account.
He immediately queried it with Barclays, and after getting no reply, was eventually told the money was from an inheritance and his to keep.
The handyman used other money from his separation to buy a £237,500 new home – expecting to use the new windfall to fund extensive repairs on the property.
But nine months after the cash started appearing in his account, Barclays realised its mistake and took it all back – as well as an extra £6,000 of Alexander’s own money.
The grandfather from Sutton, Norfolk, blames the bank and said he's been left living in a semi-derelict home with no heating, and no funds to renovate it.
Barclays has admitted the money was transferred by another sender in error and Alexander was "incorrectly advised that he could keep the funds”.
They have offered him £500 in compensation for the error.
But Alexander said: “I’ve been a loyal customer for 40 years and they clearly told me twice the money was mine to spend.
“I planned to renovate the house to rent out rooms on Airbnb, but I'll need to work now to earn the money and it will take years.
“I never would have bought it if I didn’t have the extra money.
“Barclays have stolen my future plans and left me living like a stowaway.”
Alexander noticed a payment of £30,000 land in his account at the end of last year, before another payment of £30,000 and one of £777 landed in his account two weeks later.
He said a few weeks later a bank worker called to say the transfers looked like direct inheritance payments to him and he could spend it, he claims.
Another £50,000 landed in his account in August.
But in September a customer of his former business rang him up and confessed he'd been the one to accidentally give the money to him.
Alexander called Barclays who confirmed they had made a mistake and offered him £500 compensation before taking the money back from his account in September.
A Barclays spokesperson said it was “evident that the sender of the funds had selected the incorrect intended recipient from their payee list when completing the online payment instructions”.
They confirmed that Alexander was “incorrectly advised” by the bank and that the funds were removed, along with an additional £6,000 that was taken in “error” that will be returned with lost interest.
They urged customers to report unexpected funds immediately, and to regularly delete one-off payees from the app or online banking site.
Can you keep money sent to you by mistake?
While it may seem like a bonus to accidentally receive money from someone, the law states that you can’t actually keep it.
If you know that money you have been sent doesn’t belong to you – and you don’t take steps to hand it back or cancel the credit – then you could be charged under ‘retaining wrongful credit’ under the Theft Act 1968.
If you spend the money that you receive, you must still pay it back – including any overpayments you may receive from an employer.
For someone who has sent money to the wrong account, banks must take action and attempt to retrieve the money within 20 days – but if the money cannot be returned, or the unintended recipient refuses to hand it back, you may have to take court action against them.
What to do if you send money to the wrong bank
A code of practice on ‘misdirected payments’ must be followed by banks if you contact them about accidentally sending money to the wrong account.
If you realise your mistake, you should let your bank know as soon as possible, and they must take action within two working days.
The bank will attempt to reclaim the funds but if the recipient does not respond or disputes the error, an investigation will be launched and concluded within 15 business days.
The code of practice that banks follow does not guarantee the return of funds and they should set out next steps if the claim is unsuccessful – including taking the recipient to court or taking your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Watch: The risks of buying now and paying later