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News Article

£250,000 appears in your bank account - what would you do?

Published 12 January 2012 by

The Guardian features an interesting story of Leo Benedictus, a man who woke up one day to find a quarter of a million pounds in his bank account, with no idea where it came from. What would you do?

It might sound like a dream come true - it's the bank's mistake, and 'possession is nine tenths of the law', as they say.

Mr Benedictus fantasised about keeping the money, owning a flash car, running off with his family, or being rewarded with a large cash sum if he returned the money to its rightful owner. He even toyed with the idea that perhaps the money really was his, and 'must' have come from a 'shy patron of the arts' who loved his last novel.

However, he became anxious as time passed and no one came looking for the money - it could be an elaborate scam, or blood money, his bank could press charges if he tried to spend it… so he decided to take action.

He phoned the UK Payments Council who said (in no uncertain terms) that the money isn't his, he has no legal right to it and it was simply an administration error by the bank. He isn't even entitled to any interest while the money is in his account. Even if he just 'borrowed' some for a 'sure thing' at the races, he couldn't keep any of the winnings. And he'd be breaking the law.

When the bank called later that week, he gave the money back and was pretty relieved to do so.

And all this happened because of a simple error in the account number - so it's worth checking the account code any time you transfer money. If you think the week Leo Benedictus had was stressful, imagine what it was like for the woman who lost a quarter of a million pounds for a week!