Domestic transactions: made ever easier with online banking, but with risks…
My wife is a full-time mum, which we all know is harder work than many jobs (certainly harder than mine), yet in terms of direct pay… well the kids don’t cough up much. Plus no bank would except what they do cough up.
So I put some hard-earned pennies over to my missus’ bank account every so often, and did one such transaction a few weeks back. M’wife gave me details of which account to send it to, and apparently it was the everyday account (with the bank with the free pens), rather than the rainy day account (with the bank who give you extra, but no free pens) that she jokingly calls the ‘Starting Anew’ account. I can’t say I like the name.
Two weeks later, she asked if I definitely sent that money over. It had never arrived. Hmm. Mustn’t have clicked ‘Confirm’, I thought, so checked, and sure enough it was confirmed as sent, although the statement only shows the account name I entered, rather than the account details. I phoned my bank (with the free pens). “Just because it says her name,” they said, “It doesn’t stop it going to someone else of a different name if you got a digit wrong.” Huh? Some safeguard that is. “Well, people spell names different ways sometimes. We can’t expect them to get it exactly right.” Oh but you can. You can if the upshot is my money goes to a complete stranger.
“We can confirm you got at least one digit wrong. You should have entered a ‘20’ first, but you did ‘30’ so it’s gone somewhere else.” A thousand pounds, this was. Slipped through my fingers because I slipped with my fingers when tapping numbers in. I felt physically sick. I need that money, I said. I need to know where it is, and I needed you Mr Banker to get it back! Holding the phone, it was like I was on a particularly hostile edition of Deal Or No Deal. “Well it’s been two weeks now, sir, and it’s left our bank. Once it’s gone, it’s a) up to the incorrect recipient to return it if they wish, and b) up to you to persuade them.” (I never warm to anyone using ‘a)’ and ‘b)’ in speech, particularly when they’re telling me I’ve lost a thousand pounds.)
I am normally very careful, I insisted, recalling that our pre-schooler and baby were both present and clawing my leg when I was doing that payment. I’d have to dock their pocket money for a few decades to recoup the cash. “We can’t get the money back. But what I’ll do is put a tracking procedure on this, and you’ll get a letter in the next 12 days, detailing exactly who now has your thousand pounds. You can write to them, if you’d like it back.”
Like it back…? My thousand pounds. Now theirs. My heart sank. Times are tough. If I’d slipped up and sent a tenner to the wrong place, I’d be kicking myself, but would probably eventually let it lie, and just take a few extra free pens to make up for it. But a thousand pounds? To some stranger? Whom I had to now convince, with no bank support, to just return it if they wanted to, if they hadn’t already spent it?
I contemplated if I received unexpected money into my bank account. Would I spend it? Alert the bank? I couldn’t say for sure. From now on, I’ll definitely be alerting the bank. (Unless it’s a thousand pounds, in which case I may consider it divine reward for this occasion, and spend it as quickly as I can before anyone comes looking for it.)
Twelve days of sleeplessness ensued while I waited for the recipient’s details to arrive in the post. My wife was as gutted as I was, but didn’t blame me, knowing the chaos and distraction kids tugging at your leg can bring. Privately she probably thought I was an idiot and started packing her Starting Anew bag.
The letter arrived. With kids racing around seemingly non-stop since the whole crisis had begun, I nervously opened it. Wifey looked on. We scanned down to find the name and contact details of this person. Who would I now be begging for our money. Please let them sound nice, I thought. I started stereotyping in my head. I was more likely to get it back from a Rev Dorothy Harting of The Vicarage, Upper Mallow, than from a Rex Wilkins, Cell 204, Reading Prison, so thought my prejudiced brain. I prayed for it to be a Dorothy Harting.
The name and address on that letter shocked me. It was our address, and my wife’s name. The account details made it clear: I had sent it to her rainy day ‘Starting Anew’ account. They apparently give you extra, just not pens or regular bank statements on this account, so we had no idea this savings account for once had a grand’s worth of savings in it.
It was a giant relief that it had reached my wife after all. I instantly knew one thing though: of all the people I could have sent that money to, there was no way I was going to get it back now.