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I am a PhD student. I have a scholarship, which pays out a stipend each fortnight -- it is not employment. Sometimes the university might transfer me money as reimbursement. Sometimes, separately to that, I am a casual employee on a short term contract with the university, for small work like marking exams etc. This was not during a time when I had a active employment contract. (though I have restarted one since).

A bit over a month ago, my wife commented that some extra money had shown up in our account, paid by the university. I attributed it to the scholarship strip-end being reindexed (which happens periodically), and back-payment of the difference coming through. And we thought nothing further of it.

Today I get an email from the university saying:

It has come to our attention that you have received a payment in error. It was $800 on the 14/10/16 to bank account ending in ****

Would you be able to return the amount to [The University] at your earliest convenience please? [The University's] details are as follows:...

The email looks legitimate. Proper footers etc. I don't recognize the name of the sender, but the university probably has dozens (or hundred) of finance people, and I've never dealt with more than 3 or 4 of them.

What should I do now? Obviously I don't want to keep money that is not mine. But I want to handle it properly, with a proper paper trail.

Is doing a bank transfer to correct their mistake, actually the right way to do it in the first place? Seems like it would not leave a very audit-able paper trail

This fact sheet from the Australian Financial Services Ombudsman seems to suggest the correct protocol may be is for them to take the issue up with my bank, as a mistaken payment.

But I'm not sure.

  • If legit, they are at least giving you the courtesy of asking for it back instead of having the bank retroactively yank the funds out – user662852 Nov 16 '16 at 4:58
  • very audit-able paper trail Don't transfer the money in one go. Do a $1 transfer and ask them to confirm on email/snail mail. And transfer the rest only after they have confirmed and you have something to prove that they had accepted it. – DumbCoder Nov 16 '16 at 8:32
  • In other circumstances though this is a common scamming scheme. So it all depends on if you trust them. – Trilarion Nov 16 '16 at 14:23
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If you are convinced/sure its legit.

Is doing a bank transfer to correct their mistake, actually the right way to do it in the first place?

Best is to write to University and ask if this extra can be adjusted towards future payments. Not sure how much that is and would one or two future payments cover it off.

The second best thing would be to ask if University can take it up with Bank and have this reversed?

If the above don't work, then request for an address where you can send the check for the refund.

  • 1
    And make sure the check is made out in the University's name. Ref – Mindwin Nov 17 '16 at 13:40
  • Cheques? Are you guys living in the 19th century? I don't know anyone in Australia who's used a cheque in the last decade. – Josh May 9 '17 at 18:32
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Confirming whether the payment was an error
The simplest method is to confirm manually with the University whether the payment was a mistake and satisfy that between yourselves.

If you're concerned it's fraudulant, I recommend calling the University finance office on a phone number you find on their website, or call one of the people you know.

Reversing the payment
To formally reverse the payment, I'd check your Product Disclosure Statement on your account with the bank. There's almost always a fee involved where a payment is reversed. It's probably easiest to just issue the payment back to the university to an agreed BSB/Account Number.

  • it is not that I think it is fraudulent. Its that I want to know the correct protocol, for reversing a transfer – Lyndon White Nov 16 '16 at 5:30
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Call in to the bank using a publicly available number to verify the request.

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Really a very straightforward situation, and subsequently, answer. Call the university pursors that you normally deal with, ask them to document the last 3 months of disbursements and highlight the incorrect one(s).

If the money is already spent out, ask them if they can apply it to future disbursements via adjusting entries, and call it a day. If not, and you CAN pay it back, go to your bank and ask them to figure it out...which they should be able to do, having the original sender's info.

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You have received some good answers, but since your concern is proper protocol, keep everything in writing (emails, not phone calls). Also, you'll get a quick response by contacting the University "Accounts Payable" department, confirm the situation with a summary as you posted here and ask for the ABA routing number for the transfer. The routing number, email, and you bank statement is all the records you need to cover your but.

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