We’ve all heard the stories of cash machines giving out “free money” – only recently, a faulty cash machine in Fallowfield, Manchester was giving out two times the amount of money people were requesting. As news spread, hundreds of people began queuing up to use the machine. In this blog, we’re tackling what you should do if a cash machine gives you the wrong money and whether you’ll ever be allowed to keep it.
If you ever hear of a similar situation to this and go with the intention of drawing out “free cash”, be warned – this could result in you being prosecuted. This is because you’re knowingly taking out money that you know isn’t yours. To make things worse, you can easily be tracked by your card when making the transaction, so your bank or card provider could request that you pay back the money.
However, things can work in your favour if you can prove that you didn’t have the intent to take advantage of the situation but were simply paid wrongly. In this situation, you may be able to keep the money, but in general terms the best course of action is to report it straightway to the bank, or take the surplus money into your nearest branch.
Banks don’t always ask for the money to be given back – for example, for the case in Manchester, Tesco Bank decided not to recover the additional money that was mistakenly taken by customers. However, policies will vary depending on the bank and the sum of money taken. For example, in 2003 three members of the same family were sentenced to 12 and 15 months in jail after withdrawing £134,410 from malfunctioning Coventry Building Society cash machines.
What about underpayments?
If you’re in a situation where you try to withdraw money from a cash machine and the wrong amount comes out, then it’s important that you check how much your account has been debited by. For example, if you requested £20 but only received £10, then you’ve not lost out unless your account has been debited with the full amount. If this is the case, get in touch with your bank and let them know your situation and any evidence that you have to support it. If you are unsatisfied with their response, take this to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
You may find yourself in the opposite scenario where no money comes out of the cash machine (always double check that it’s not just delayed) and if you do, note down the time and location of the ATM, as well as any error messages that popped up on the screen, and report this quickly to the bank responsible. They should resolve this issue for you within a couple of days, but if they don’t, get in contact with your own bank (if this is different) and ask for their assistance. It should take them around 15 days to process your refund. Alternatively, you could take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service as a last resort.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have your debit or credit card swallowed by a cash machine, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get it back, so contact your bank and request a replacement – this should take within three to five working days to arrive. When in this situation, be careful that you’re not being duped by a cash machine scam.