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Out of the blue, I got sent $50 I wasn't expecting over Interac e-Transfer. Now, the sender has emailed me saying it was a mistake. I want to do the honest thing and send them back their money, but it looks too much like a classic scam.

I've checked that the money is, in fact, in my account, and I've done a cursory Google search which seems to imply there's no way for the sender to reverse the transaction on their own.

My main concerns are, what if they are able to successfully dispute the original transaction after I send the money back? Or what if this is about obtaining some personal information like an account number?

Is it safe to send this money back?

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  • 17
    It's a scaaaaam!
    – Valorum
    Oct 5, 2023 at 19:12
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    Today, in "is it a scam". The answer shockingly was, "yes". When it is a scam, you don't touch the money with a ten foot pole. Back off, call your bank and have them sort it out. Oct 6, 2023 at 15:36
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    @JimmyJames - Yeah, but do it a thousand times and it's suddenly real money
    – Valorum
    Oct 7, 2023 at 7:32
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    Update: I called my bank and they say Interac will reverse the transfer. I'm not replying to the email. There's a good chance this was an honest mistake, but why risk it?
    – mm201
    Oct 10, 2023 at 18:35

5 Answers 5

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I think the other answers are not fully accurate due to unfamiliarity with the Interac system. After being deposited, Interac transfers will only be reversed in the case that they were sent from a compromised/hacked account. If you have autodeposit enabled on your account, it is trivially easy for someone to send an etransfer to the wrong email by simply mistyping it. The advice is the same however, you should assume that this is a scam and act accordingly, by contacting your bank.

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    I see Interac is like Venmo. I updated my answer to reflect this revelation =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Oct 5, 2023 at 14:40
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    @MonkeyZeus it's like that but worse lol. Coming from a land of free and instant IBAN-based transactions to here I hate it so much, and it used to be even worse!
    – llama
    Oct 5, 2023 at 14:44
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    It's not trivially easy to mis-send a transfer. You need to set up a contact in your banking software using their email address, at which point you are given their legal (banking) name. You then select that contact and send them money. I would hope that you would notice when you set up the contact that the name provided did not match the person you wanted to send money to. (It is still possible to make a mistake, but not trivially easy.) Oct 5, 2023 at 17:29
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    @GentlePurpleRain that's not how it works in my experience. I've always had to type the name myself. It would also be huge privacy flaw (have email, get real name). It is indeed easy to send to the wrong person when autodeposit is enabled. Especially from some banks which don't tell you that it's enabled and still say you must enter a secret question and answer which are never used. Banks with better integration warn you that the transfer will be accepted immediately without any secret.
    – Olivier
    Oct 5, 2023 at 21:03
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    +1 for the shortest answer that ends with call your bank.
    – Mazura
    Oct 5, 2023 at 23:39
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My main concerns are, what if they are able to successfully dispute the original transaction after I send the money back?

That's the scam. They'll keep the money you sent them, and they'll claw back the money they sent you. Usually, the "return" is in a way that you wouldn't be able to claw back - they might ask you to do a wire transfer, gift cards, cash, personal check, what's not.

Alternatively the money you got was from a stolen account while the money you send will be clean. That way the traces of stolen funds end with you and the scammer has laundered their gain. In this case it doesn't matter if the initial transfer is irreversible, since it doesn't come out of the scammer's pocket but rather an innocent third party victim.

Or what if this is about obtaining some personal information like an account number?

They clearly already have your account number matched with your email. That ship has sailed. Apparently in Canada they do not need your account number to send you money, regardless everything else in this answer stands.

Don't give them anything, and let your bank know about this transaction. Ask your bank to reverse it, and maybe change your account number.

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    What makes you think they have their account number? Interac uses email addresses as identifiers, which are only connected to the account on the back end. On the one hand this makes it easier to run this kind of scam assuming you can reverse the transaction, but on the other it also makes it easier to mistakenly send money to the wrong email.
    – llama
    Oct 5, 2023 at 13:17
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    E-transfer, in Canada at least, only requires the recipient's email address to send money. The scammers probably do not have an account number.
    – Aubreal
    Oct 5, 2023 at 14:39
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    Amending previous comment: I guess the scam doesn't actually rely on the first transaction being reversible, but the second being irreversible. If the scammer gets access to an account, sends money to third party, that third party sends money to the scammer, they only care that the final transaction is irreversible, not whether the third party keeps the money or not.
    – llama
    Oct 5, 2023 at 15:06
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    I'm not familiar with how e-transfer in Canada works, so if email is the only thing needed then they probably do not have the account number.
    – littleadv
    Oct 5, 2023 at 15:55
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    It seems there should be a standardized mechanism for "forwarding" a supposedly-misdirected payment, with the provision that both the original sender and new recipient would be notified that the payment was being forwarded, and any "claw-back" action would be applied against the new recipient (who would be told in the forwarding notice that they should judge such risks based on the original sender). If there were a "normal" way that people were taught to do this, a lot of scams would cease to work.
    – supercat
    Oct 5, 2023 at 16:01
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My cursory knowledge of Interac E-Transfer is that they are irreversible by the sender once the recipient has accepted the deposit.

Relevant snippet for the sender of the $50:

I need to cancel a transfer, but the recipient has already accepted the deposit. How do I reverse an Interac E-Transfer transaction?

Unfortunately, once a deposit has been made there is no way to reverse the transaction. You’ll have to make arrangements directly with the recipient. You should only send money transfers to parties you know and trust. For most Interac e-Transfer uses (sending money to family and friends, repaying IOUs, sending money as gifts, etc.), you will know the recipient well. For uses where you may not know the recipient (e.g., online auction purchases), take the same precautions you would take when making cash purchases. For online auctions and purchases, be sure to read and follow any steps recommended by the operators of these websites to safely transact.

Pay attention to "recipient has already accepted the deposit".

If you have not accepted, then reject the deposit. If you choose to send fresh money instead of reject the initial money then the other person may be eligible to accept your money and cancel their initial transfer.


Never forget that a sense of urgency is a scammer's first line of attack.

If the sender reached out to you moments after initiating the transfer then consider that as a red flag; they want to reach you before you even realize you have a pending deposit.

It would take an average person hours or days before realizing they sent to the wrong address. A person cognizant enough to email you moments after an "accidental" transfer would have been cognizant enough to not send it to the wrong address in the first place.

If the sender also supplied a different Interac address than the one which initially sent you the money then that is a definite scam attempt.


If you've accepted their deposit then you may choose to send it back as long as you're sending precisely $50 to the same exact address. At worst, you miss out on keeping a scammer's fifty dollars. At best, you return an honest mistake.

One "angle" of this scam is that the initial transfer is legitimate/honest to build up trust in an effort to set you up for a larger scam. Fifty dollars is trivial and would establish you as a valid patsy. The next unexpected transfer could be for a thousand dollars via a reversible method.

Scammers are consistently crafting their deceitful methods so potentially honest mistakes like the one they're portraying sometimes suffer.

Per Interac E-Transfer's website:

Unexpected Interac e-Transfer notification?

If you receive an Interac e-Transfer text or email you weren’t expecting, confirm with the sender via another channel. If the email or text comes from someone you don’t know, or you suspect it to be fraudulent, don’t respond or click any links. Forward the email right away to [email protected].

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  • "you may choose to send it back as long as you're sending precisely $50" to the same address it came from. Be sure to avoid similar addresses, things like swapping 0 and O or I and l.
    – stannius
    Oct 5, 2023 at 15:42
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    Sending money back in the opposite direction is a terrible idea. It's a form of money-laundering, and OP is the patsy that's going to have to explain to the police why they did it
    – Valorum
    Oct 5, 2023 at 19:15
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    Oh god, don't click on links in the e-transfer email! "Hello, I want to be phished and/or my browser compromised by a hostile website".
    – Yakk
    Oct 5, 2023 at 20:16
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    I don't agree with "it would take average person hours or days to realize...". On ordinary mails I have sometimes noticed mistakes in typed e-mail addresses the very moment I clicked send, or a minute after. IMO taking hours or days would be a sign that intended recipient didn't get the money and notified sender. Yes, ordinary banking channels have slow ways where you both agree and reverse transaction, so anyone insisting on fast ones = scam. But I don't think this is really relevant here. Oct 6, 2023 at 8:34
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    Your advice that you may send the money back only seems to align with Interac's advice when the sender is known. OP doesnt state if they do or not, but if they dont know them, as per Interac's advice, they shouldnt send the money back. They should just forward the email on to Interac's phishing department by the sounds of it.
    – JMac
    Oct 6, 2023 at 11:36
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No it's not safe.

At least in my_country this could mean you are liable. As a minimum, they ask for reversal and get twice. If it's money laundering, it could be worse

Just inform your bank that you didn't asked for this transfer and allow them to return it to sender.

If sender asks you to return - tell them to ask their bank. Or at least court.

If sender says they can't, "but paypal is our bank and their said they can't do it" and so on - it's THEIR problem.

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  • does your country use Interact transfers?
    – njzk2
    Oct 7, 2023 at 10:48
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Scam. The money in your account is from something like a bounced cheque. The bank have put it in your account for now, but when the clearing process happens, it will fail, and the money will be removed from your account again. But the money you send the scammers, will have been sent legitimately, by you, and they'll keep a tight grip on it.

This scam has been going on for years. I'm surprised banks haven't fixed it yet, but apparently there's still one or two ways of transferring money without actually having the money. It could also be money from a hacked credit card.

Send no money. This is either a very popular scam, or the one time in a million somebody's made an unlikely mistake that looks exactly like a very popular scam. Contact your bank, and tell them what you suspect, they'll be glad you did, and they'll do the necessary work. But don't send the scammers anything, don't even bother responding, put them on "block" if it worries you. But it's OK, let your bank handle it.

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