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I was expecting an incoming foreign transfer into my checking account. After much delay, the bank informed me that the wire transfer landed in someone else's account. I realized that the sender made a mistake in my account number.

The person who received my money refuses to pick up phone calls and communication from the bank and I am unable to retrieve the money as a result. How can I get my money back from that person? I already tried everything with the bank and they could not help. It is worth mentioning that the bank manager assured me the money will be rejected, however, the money was not rejected and returned and landed in some random guy (or gal) account.

Is there any way to get my money back?

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    It sounds like the sender needs to get it back. The money was never yours at any point, you can't "get back" something you never had to begin with. If Alice owes Bob money, she can't fulfill her obligation by paying Charlie, and then telling Bob to fix the mistake. There is no circumstance in which Charlie should mistakenly receive money from Alice, and forward it on to Bob instead of simply sending it back to Alice. You are Bob; this seems entirely like Alice's problem. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 22:00
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    Are you sure this isn't a scam? As @NuclearHoagie points out, if the sender sent the money to the wrong account, it would be the sender's issue to resolve. If the bank is convinced that the wire was sent to the wrong recipient, it is fully capable of reversing the transaction without needing to speak with the incorrect recipient. That plus a foreign wire that just happened to be incorrect but land in a valid account makes me suspicious that there is fraud. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 22:13

3 Answers 3

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I'll mark this as a community wiki since I'm summarizing a bunch of comments folks left.

Who owns the mistake

In your description you said that the sender put in an incorrect account. You as the receiver have never gotten the money, it was never yours, and the sender is still under the obligation to send it to you.

It is not your problem (technically), it is the sender's. If you sue the sender you'll win - they didn't pay you.

Who can return the money

The actual receiver can return the money to the sender. The sender can sue the actual receiver if they refuse and will win. The sender's bank can attempt to reverse the transaction and claw the money back based on the mistake (might need the cooperation of the receiving bank, but no need in the cooperation of the receiver themselves).

Again - not your problem, the sender's.

What can you do

Nothing, other than demanding your money from the sender, since you're still owed. Practically - not much. If it's not a significant amount of money compared to lawyers' fees, write it off.

  • Foreign contracts are hard to enforce. It will be expensive to sue the sender, even if it is a genuine transaction and that person really exist.
  • Wire transfers are notoriously hard to reverse (by design), so the sender will try to shift the responsibility to you even though its their mistake.

Is it a genuine transaction?

This smells like a scam. Someone sends money to you, but it gets lost, now you have (have you?) provided some goods or services and are sent to chase your tail for payment that you will never actually get.

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    Or they ask you to give more personal information so the next transfer succeeds. Or they ask you to pay a transfer fee, and another, and.... There are many ways this could be the start of a scam, either identity theft or con game or both. Be extremely careful, especially if you have not thoroughly checked that this contact really does work for who they claim to work for or if the price offered is unusually large.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 7:54
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Wire transfers are made to be permanent. One uses wire transfers so there is no fear of pulling the money back like using a stop payment on a check. This is why scams using wire transfers are attempted and normally successful.

Technically the sender still owes you the money if things are as you state. That is they made a mistake in using the proper account number. Now this may not be applicable if we are talking loved ones/family, but if this is for a service or goods you are under no obligation to provide such.

If you provided the wrong account information then it would be you that are out the money and would still be obligated to provide the service or goods in question.

At this point, the money belongs to the person who received it. It is totally up to them to return it to you. I doubt there is any repercussions for this person as they did not commit fraud.

Perhaps you could attempt to recover the money in small claims court or seek a lawyer for a larger amount. However, it would be a breach of privacy if the bank manager provided you with this individuals contact information.

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    Wire transfers can definitely be reversed by the sending bank, if certain conditions are fulfilled (likely easier to do domestically than internationally). Also, to the "I doubt there is any repercussions for this person as they did not commit fraud." - maybe this depends on the jurisdiction, but very definitely it is not the case universally. If the person knowingly spends the money (so that the transfer cannot be reversed anymore), he/she/they are liable to return it, otherwise they commit an equivalent of theft. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 14:34
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    The person who mistakenly received the transfer is not free and clear to keep money that was never intended for them. It's not fraud, but a form of theft. It's no different than finding a wallet left behind somewhere and keeping it for yourself - difficult to prosecute, but still a crime. Knowingly appropriating property that obviously belongs to someone else is theft. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 14:42
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    @RadovanGarabík the reversible conditions boil down to "the bank made a mistake".. OP clearly is the person who made the mistake, so they cannot reverse the transfer.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 16:25
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    I don't think it was the OP who made the mistake, and yes - wire transfers can be clawed back in this situation (names/addresses don't match), so the sender needs to take action.
    – littleadv
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:44
  • @littleadv: ... assuming the sender actually sent anything..
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 2:40
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Note this is assuming that you are the sender. Not the person who was supposed to receive the deposit.

Your problem looks and sounds like a scam.

If I were to receive a call from someone saying "I accidentally transferred money into your account... please send it back to me".

I would

  1. assume it was a scam.

  2. block the number.

  3. not use the money. Also talk to my bank about it.

The best you can do is to file a personal lawsuit. It will take a while. But it is your only option. And only worth doing if you sent enough money for it to be worth the cost of talking to a lawyer to start the lawsuit. You can try calling the bank that you accidently sent the money to and explain the situation, but that is most likely a waste of time.

The only time that it will be reversed is if the bank made an error. Which does not appear to be the case here.

In the future

double check your numbers. Tripple check them in fact. It would be nice if banks verified the account name as well as the account numbers. But they don't. And that is not going to change any time soon.

better yet use a different method.

ACH's allow you to reverse transfers if the account number was wrong, the amount was incorrect, etc.. They are much more forgiving.

Money transfers only perform the transfer if all of the details match. So are very error free.

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  • File a lawsuit against whom and on what basis? I doubt the "intended" receiver has any standing to sue the "actual" receiver. That's a transaction between the sender and the receiver, anyone else claiming they're the "intended" receiver will be thrown out of the court. ACH is a very US-centric thing. Given the "foreign" in the question, there are at least two countries involved.
    – littleadv
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:42
  • ACH works pretty well for foreign transfers, as long as use a global ACH.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:46
  • As for the lawsuit... It would be against the person you accidently sent money to recover your money (obviously)... And it has standing... Its not your money, it was sent by mistake. It was intended to end up in your account. See reuters.com/markets/us/… Current ruling at least in the US is, it's not your money. It was sent to you by mistake. The money needs to be returned. the lawsuit will be successful... And this recent court case was for a loan repayment that was wired when it wasn't supposed to have been wired.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:52
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    There are exactly two countries outside the US where "global" ACH is at least partially supported: frbservices.org/financial-services/ach/fedglobal. The OP is not the one who sent money.
    – littleadv
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 17:53
  • Your link is referencing foreign exchanges... not IACHs.. Canada, Mexico, Australia, and England all have banks that support Global ACH transfers. I think Europe has at least one bank as well... But you are right that money transfers have better support.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 18:07

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