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This whole situation occurred in England where I attend university.

Back in early December, a homeless person (X for short) I’d previously talked a couple of times to approached me. X told me they could not access their bank account (I don’t remember exactly why) and hence couldn’t receive their benefits. X asked me if I would be okay with calling DWP (the department for work and pensions) with them, and switching their account information to mine so I could receive X’s benefits and give it to them in cash. Being on friendly terms with them, I agreed under the condition that this would be a one-time occurence (they assured me they would have their bank account sorted out by the time the next payment rolled around.)

After receiving the benefits and giving X the money in cash, I put the situation out of my mind and a couple of days later traveled back home to Bulgaria for the holidays. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, every two weeks X’s benefits continued to be sent to my account - apparently they hadn’t sorted their account out.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when a British costudent of mine, Y, messaged me saying X had approached them and asked them to get in contact with me regarding their benefits. After checking my bank account and seeing the further payments, I asked Y if they would be alright with serving as a middle man between myself and X so I could get their money to them, after which I intended to call my bank and tell them to stop accepting payments from the account that was sending the benefits to me. Y agreed and gave X their money, but after calling both my bank and DWP I’ve been told it’s not possible to stop the benefits from coming into my account without X’s details (which I don’t have) and permission - in fact, X needs to call them. With the Covid situation being what it is, I have not returned to the UK and am likely to remain home for a while longer. It’s difficult and time-consuming to get in contact with X, and I’d much rather avoid further dealing with this situation.

Can my bank really not block an account from sending me money? What are my options? I’ve been advised to contact the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in conjunction with Y. Anything else I should do?

Thanks for reading.

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    Is closing your account not an option? – Ron Beyer Jan 18 at 17:00
  • That’s not a terrible idea actually, but I think I’d rather pursue less extreme options first. – user105666 Jan 18 at 19:42
  • Other than going through a very expensive legal process, I'm not sure what other options you may have. – Ron Beyer Jan 18 at 20:54
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    Unfortunately, you have made an almost incomprehensibly bad decision. Unfortunately, your only next step is to close the account and learn from the experience. (If this incomprehensibly bad decision was due to having "a charitable heart", the best way forward is to always think out "other ways to help".) – Fattie Jan 19 at 14:09
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    "they assured me they would have their bank account sorted out by the time the next payment rolled around." I know where this is heading... – RonJohn Jan 19 at 14:15
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Can my bank really not block an account from sending me money?

The banking system isn't setup to reject deposits. Anybody can make a deposit into a bank account. The protections are designed to limit the ability to remove funds from an account.

What are my options?

You could close the account and open a new account. Though only the bank will know if there isn't some forwarding feature that will send the deposits to the new account number. We had a question a few weeks ago about how some vendors would receive the new account number when you changed credit card numbers. The way to make sure the funds don't follow you is to switch banks.


The bigger unknown is, do you face legal trouble?

A person who your sort of know had their government funds sent to your bank account, where you retrieved the funds as cash and gave the cash to them. Now a month later you have convinced another person you know to pull cash out of their account and give it to the homeless person.

If the homeless person wasn't entitled to those funds and the government wants to know where they went, they will follow the path to your account. At best they will remove the funds, and you will be a typical victim of a scam. Plus your friend from school will want their money back. At worst the government accuses you of fraud and you face legal consequences.

If they were entitled to those funds and are angry that they can't get them from you, they may also go to the authorities.

Document everything. Don't spend the funds. Make sure you keep the funds in the same account because they transfers could be reversed without notice.

You may need professional legal advice.

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    I agree with this. I'm afraid this is one of those situation where a genuine kind-hearted attempt to be helpful potentially leads to more trouble and inconvenience than you could ever have imagined at first. If anything like this happens again it is better to help the homeless person access the services themselves in some way (eg by accompanying them to Citizen's Advice to find out how they can get benefits without a bank account, or researching this for them) than by letting your own personal financial affairs get tangled up with another person's in this way. – Vicky Jan 19 at 13:25
  • "The bigger unknown is, do you face legal trouble?" unfortunately, this is not unknown. The only mystery at hand is why the OP is not already in epic trouble. The UK gets REALLY pissy about benefits fraud: ie, what is described in the question. (The idea that "Oh, I thought I was helping - honest" will keep you out of jail is a non-starter.) – Fattie Jan 19 at 14:11
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    "You may need professional legal advice." inasmuch as "you may need to breath and eat" :/ – Fattie Jan 19 at 14:12
  • @Fattie I was going to suggest (half-joking?) that the OP may need to avoid setting foot in the UK for a while. (Note: I am not seriously advising OP to become an international fugitive.) – Damila Jan 19 at 16:12
  • @Damila - I mean, that is the obvious course of action. The alternative is straight to jail. The UK is a very wired "big brother" country. In (say) the US if you have benefits fraud trouble, nobody will even notice as you arrive at the airport. In the UK, they know everything. The OP will never now be able to enter the UK without likely being arrested - they HATE benefits fraud in the UK. (I don't even know whjy the person posted here. Literally every single substantive sentence in the question describes (highly) illegal action. – Fattie Jan 19 at 16:14

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