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Two months ago I received a money transfer of around 200 € into my account from a company called Custom House Financial UK, which turns out to be an affiliate of Western Union (ie. they do money transfers). I wasn't expecting this money, nor does anyone in the UK have my bank account info. There wasn't any further information about who could have sent it. I thought it was an accident but couldn't see a way to send it back. Then this month I got another one, this time for over 500 €. I guess this time its not an accident, or the person on the other end is really not paying attention..

Is there a way to track Custom House Financial (or western union) transfers? Could this be some kind of weird (and honestly really badly thought out) scam?? Any thoughts would be super helpful.

  • 19
    This is likely an error not a scam. Custom House is a foreign exchange service and it is very likely the transfer originated in a foreign country and they got the account wrong. Given the check digits built in this is a little surprising. However the ethical (it’s not your money) and possible money-laundering aspects mean you should not spend the money, and notify your bank ASAP. – Jim Garrison May 30 '18 at 4:39
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    Could be a clerical error. I was client from a big, defunct by now bank in the early 90s, and almost all my friends and acquaintances complained about random, suspect and frequent movements on their accounts. Either they were fairly incompetent, or the bank was using our accounts for money laundering. – Rui F Ribeiro May 30 '18 at 7:28
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    Sometimes these things happen as scam, the sender requests you to refund it, when you do withdraws the payment. Not sure if your case is the same but don't go writing transfers back to the sender without checking anything. – Mathijs Segers May 30 '18 at 11:37
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    One very important thing: Don't trust calls from your bank by the phone number it claims to be from. It's really easy to spoof numbers. – Duncan X Simpson May 30 '18 at 17:50
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    @Martin Bonner: That information is wrong. German Bank account numbers mostly had check-digits. In fact I personally implemented the about 150 different methods used by several banks. You can download the definition from the German Bundesbank – Daniel May 31 '18 at 15:33
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This is either a scam, or a legitimate error by the sender [more likely a scam, just due to statistical likelihood, though details are unclear]. Either way, the money isn't yours, and eventually you will need to pay it back, when the problem is discovered.

Don't wait for someone to contact you. Lodge a formal notice with your bank (ie: in writing, with proof you have sent the letter to the bank on hand) that you are not familiar with / not expecting the incoming amounts. In the event this is part of a scam attempt, the senders are likely involved in money laundering, and you want evidence as soon as possible that you are not affiliated with them.

Your bank will advise you on what actions to take. Do not accept phone calls / emails pretending to be from your bank, you must initiate contact to be sure the scammers don't intercept and get you to do something illicit.

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    didn't think about a possible money laundering scheme, that could end up making OP look like a an accomplice and in turn put him/her in serious trouble if the money is not returned. good answer – RAZ_Muh_Taz May 29 '18 at 21:29
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    Always remember there's no such thing as free money. Especially from 'random' bank transfer. I've been on the receiving end of getting someone's mortgage loan (over $300,000 CAD) due to bank clerical error. If I spent any of it and didn't pay it back, I would've went to jail. – Nelson May 30 '18 at 0:54
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    @Nelson, ever play Monopoly as a kid? ;) – Wildcard May 31 '18 at 11:57
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    Disappointingly, @Nelson is correct; in the UK at least this falls under 'Retaining wrongful credit' under the Theft Act 1968 – RJFalconer May 31 '18 at 16:41
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    The important thing is to create a record on paper, as early as possible, that is in the hands of an uninvolved third party who can verify the date, saying you don't know what the money is and were not expecting it. When Scotland Yard comes a-knocking, and they don't believe your tale, give them an extra copy of the letter "and neutral party X can confirm it". Don't outright disavow the money, just make it easy for your bank to return it if asked. – Harper May 31 '18 at 18:47
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Could this be some kind of weird (and honestly really badly thought out) scam

If 2 months have gone by and you haven't got a phone call / email; this looks less likely like a scam. Scammers don't wait for such a long time and put so much money with every chance to loose it.

It looks more like an error from Sender; i.e. incorrect account number quoted. The tag Germany and use of Money Transfer institution suggests this is cross border. There are very few cases of recurring institutional payments [pensions could be one, payment of dividends other, etc]. So the real beneficiary maybe writing letters to these institutions mentioning non-receipt and somewhere its got stuck in bureaucracy to rectify things

Is there a way to track Custom House Financial (or western union) transfers?

Please write to the Bank and they should be able to give relevant details of the originator of the payment. You can also try writing to Custom House with the details you have on the statement and see if they can help.

8

It sounds like an error.

  1. Most scammers ask for money, and need your details

  2. If it was a more elaborate scam, where is the followup/sting from the first payment?

But even assuming it's an error, you should know that in the UK (and I guess many other countries?) if you receive money by error but treat it as your own /spend it, it's counted as theft and people have been charged with criminal acts just for keeping money they got in error.

So it's important to tell your bank that you have received money that you don't think is yours, and at the least, get it clear in writing that it really is yours (if that is what they think), before you do anything else.

2

As others have noted, likely possibilities are: 1. Somebody put an incorrect account number on a transfer, i.e. it's a mistake. 2. it's a scam.

Most likely scam I see here is, Someone contacts you, claiming to be from Western Union or the sender, and asks you to write them a check or initiate an electronic funds transfer to send them the money back. Then they cancel the original transaction, or more likely there was never any money there to begin with and it was all fraudulent, and they walk away with your money.

My advice would be: Contact the bank and ask them how to deal with it. If it's an honest mistake, let the bank work out how to reverse it. Don't create a separate transaction to return the money.

The fact that there are two separate transfers without anyone contacting you makes me think that it's less likely that it's a scam and more likely that it's a mistake. But then, any time I think, "The fact that they did X makes me think it probably isn't a scam", the next obvious thought is, "unless they consider that doing X will make it look like it's not a scam, and so they do X to confuse the victim".

protected by Chris W. Rea May 31 '18 at 12:53

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