“I Got Money That Doesn’t Belong to Me, BUT…”

girl confused questionsSo remember my post last year on accidentally getting money in your bank that doesn’t belong to you?  Well, it’s been getting some decent traffic lately cuz I guess it keeps happening to people (!!!), and they’re turning to Google for help. Which then sends them to me :)

There’s been a few different comments hitting it since, but this LAST one really threw me for a loop cuz I don’t know what I’d do if it happened to me! So I wanted to share it with y’all in hopes you had some better advice to give than I had :) Maybe one of you is a lawyer and know the legal implication to it all?
Here’s the dilemma (comment was edited to be more legible):

“I’m in a situation.  My ex has paid $1,000 into my account by mistake. I’m quite aware it’s not my money and I should give it back, but he actually owes me $600 in maintenance that he refuses to pay. And suddenly I now have my hands on his money!!  So do I take out the $600 owed and return the rest? So tempting…. Is this karma?”

Tricky, huh? Here’s what I posted in return:

Ooooooooh now THAT is indeed an interesting situation! My instinct says to email/call him and just say “Hey, I got your $1,000 in my account but you owe me $600 so how about I just xfer back $400 of it?” and see what he says, but if he says no and he wants all $1,000, I wouldn’t know what the heck to do, haha… we need a lawyer here to help us out and see what would happen :)

I’m not sure *how*, exactly, the ex was able to deposit this money there in the first place, but if he went through the bank I’m pretty sure they’ll just reverse the fee altogether as if it never really happened.  I’m sure he KNOWS he’s missing that money, and will be doing everything in his power to get it back ;)

But let’s say for curiosity’s sake, you got it in cash and now it’s up to you to make the call on what to give back. What would you do? Return the money and keep trying to get that $600 owed?  Or just give back $400? Or do you  have even a better idea? It’s a tricky one!

UPDATE:  Just got an email from her :( I hope she gets her money sometime!!

“Well, he reported me to the fraud department at the bank, who in return froze my account. I was left with no option but to pay it all back or they would not release my account at all (so I couldn’t even get any of my own money). They gave me a deadline and would then call the police if I didn’t comply. It’s so so unfair as he still owes me that money, and that was my only chance off getting it back. Oh well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles…” oh well thats the way the cookie crumbles…”

(Photo by Alex Bellink)

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  1. Jen May 1, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    I’d email and say, “Thanks for making the maintenance payment! You’ve paid me a little too much so I’m sending you the extra $400 back. Thank you though.”

  2. callmewhatyouwantevencheap May 1, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    I am pretty sure she can’t just take the money, even though she is owed the money. The $1000 is not hers, so rightfully she should give it back and take legal measures to get back her $600.

    I would definitely talk to the ex first though.

  3. Money Beagle May 1, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    I would probably offer that up and see what they come back with. If the answer is no then try a compromise, like ‘how about $300 which will come halfway of what you owe’. It might get her $300 that she might not get otherwise and it might keep them on OK terms if that’s necessary.

    I got let go from a job once and they kept up the direct deposit. I let them know after every deposit, and after about three deposits they finally asked for the money back. I asked to keep a portion of it since I had done everything I should have to notify them and it was a nusiance. They didn’t let me keep the cash but they agreed to let me keep the funds that had been deposited in my 401(k) account, which they had previously been planning on reversing.

  4. Rai May 1, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Its not right for her to keep the $1000, but its not right for him to not pay the $600 either. If he wants all the money back, I would probably give him only the $400 …… in unwrapped pennies of course.

  5. KimD May 1, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    haha I’d contact him and thank him for finally paying the money he owes you, but informed him that he actually only owed $600 not $1000, and you’ll be returning the $400 since it isn’t yours. Thank him again for being a great guy and paying you the money despite the situation (I assume there is something going on if he’s being a douche and refusing to give you money you are owed). Pretend like his payment was on purpose and be gracious; when people are built up to be and viewed as good guys, they tend to want to keep it that way.

  6. Sense May 1, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    How long has he owed the money? If it has been a while, I’d keep the total, including the extra $400 as interest owed. I can’t stand folks who owe that much money to someone they say they loved. He is obviously an ex for a reason. I would notify him and thank him for wiping the debt clean, though, even if it was a mistake.

  7. Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think May 1, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    I wouldn’t keep the entire $1,000, but you’d better believe I’d keep the $600 he owed me. And I wouldn’t ask his permission before arriving at this decision. He’d know what the deal is when I returned $400 along with a note thanking him for paying the $600 he owed me. If he didn’t like it, I’d let him take me to court. How ’bout that?

  8. cashflowmantra May 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    I, too, would thank him for the money and send back only $400. Let him go to court to get it back and hire a lawyer, etc. Doubtful that he would. Besides, it is probably the only money she will see anyway.

  9. Brian May 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    I would contact the ex and say that i had their money in my account and I am will to return it. I would then remind them they owed me $600. There is no way I would keep the entire amount since I know Karma would catch up to me at some point. As far as the money getting into the account, I know banks will pretty much let you put money into any account you want, its the taking it back out that causes a problem.

  10. Stephanie May 1, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Well… it would totally depend on how long the deposit was in the account. A customer could come back and ask where their deposit that was made on xx/xx/xxxx and it could get reversed out. If it was check they could instantly take it back w/o warning. I have had it happen to me in my teller days when I put a deposit into the wrong person’s account.

  11. Jon B May 1, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    I’m going to have to agree with callmewhatyouwantevencheap. However, keeping the money owed is tempting.

  12. GB @ In Budgets We Trust May 1, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    I’m surprised more people aren’t arguing that she deserves the $600 plus interest for it being late? :)

    I’m not sure the bank can simply reverse the fee because you usually have to go through a few channels to authorize a recipient account in the first place. I’d give the extra money back, too, if I could confirm he couldn’t just reverse the fee.

  13. Kelsey May 1, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    If I could prove he owed me the $600 (through bills, emails acknowledging he owes, etc), I would keep it. And then if I called, I would record the call (in my state you can if at least one person knows it is being recorded) and let him know. That way, he might verbally acknowledge the debt, thus giving me more proof.

    Also I’m wondering…if he has access to put money in, how does he not have access to withdrawal money? Maybe I am confused about how it all works, but that question crossed my mind while reading the post.

  14. bogofdebt May 1, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I think that if she has proof of the bills/amount he owes, she should attach them to an email and nicely say that if she could keep the amount he owes, she’ll transfer back the extra $400. This way there is proof in the email of the amount owed and that she is being nice about it.

    I know that I’ve had banks where anyone could deposit money into an account if they knew the full name of the account holder and perferably the account number. They just couldn’t withdraw it.

  15. Ginger May 1, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    If she is owed $600 in maintenance, will her ex soon owe her the extra $400 she received? I would keep it all, in that case. It would be up to her ex to prove his deposit was an accident and if he owes her the money, too bad for him, it won’t look like an accident.

  16. Georgie May 1, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    anyone can deposit money into an account, only an account holder can withdraw. My dad deposits money directly into my account for birthdays and such, all you need is the number. So how does she *know* it was an accident unless she talks to him? I mean, I get that she’s assuming it was an accident because she hates him now, but I’d be proactive and contact him and be like, “thanks! you overpaid the amount you owe me…how should I return your $400?”

  17. Stephanie May 1, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    It all depends if it’s cash or checks. If it’s a check, most banks will not take 3rd party checks because of the liability that it can cause. (How does the teller know that the payee on the check actually endorsed it.) That would be reversed out as soon as he finds out. If it’s cash, it’s a bit more tricky and depends on what was written on the deposit slip. If the slip says his name but it went into her account then it could be reversed out. Hardly anyone knows their bank account numbers.

    I think the whole situation is treading on thin ice.. I wouldn’t give the $400 back until I knew the bank wasn’t going to give him the $1000 back.

  18. Donna Thompson May 1, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I would email him about it and see if he’s willing to apply some or all of it toward his debt to you. If he agrees to give something or all of the $600.00, get it in writing as proof confirming everything through the email response. Keep all the conversations in text or email as your backup and proof. If not, use the email as proof of his unwillingness to pay his debt to you and use it in Small Claims Court. Don’t discuss any of it by just talking… that becomes his word against yours should you have to take the matter any further… with him, the bank error, or court.

  19. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager May 1, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    I’m with Jen on this. Keep the $600 and send the $400 back.

  20. Shannon-ReadyForZero May 1, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    I used to work at a bank and we could deposit money from anyone into someone else’s account. We could NOT, however, give any information on the account. That meant we couldn’t tell the depositor the account number, balance, or anything else. We couldn’t even do a split deposit (where you have a check and deposit some of it and get the rest back in cash) because that would technically look like a withdrawal. If the depositor’s check is written on the same bank, then the teller can see if the funds are available right away and thus can make the deposit available immediately. If it’s another bank’s check, they just make a small amount (back then it was $100) available the first day and the rest after the check clears. The logic is, people can give whoever they want money, they just can’t ever take money out of an account that doesn’t have their name on it.

    Is there any chance he did this on purpose because he knew he owed you money?

  21. Kurt @ Money Counselor May 1, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    J., I’d close the account and transfer all the money in it to a new account at a different bank. Then I’d email the ex: “I got your $600 loan repayment at last, but I wasn’t expecting so much interest. Thanks!”

  22. Aloysa @ My Broken Coin May 1, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    Interesting because I am wondering if her ex actually intended to give her $600 plus interest? I know, I know… what is the probability of that, right? I’d keep it all! Consider it $600 plus interest.

  23. B. (Below Her Means) May 2, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    *sings* Go on, take the money and run…

    Sorry, what were we talking about?

  24. J. Money May 2, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Thanks for all your opinions/thoughts guys – def. interesting stuff to read! Unfortunately I just got word back on what ended up happening, though, and it didn’t go in her favor :( Here’s what she emailed me:

    “Well, he reported me to the fraud department at the bank, who in return froze my account. I was left with no option but to pay it all back or they would not release my account at all (so I couldn’t even get any of my own money). They gave me a deadline and would then call the police if I didn’t comply. It’s so so unfair as he still owes me that money, and that was my only chance off getting it back. Oh well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles…” oh well thats the way the cookie crumbles…”

    I know she appreciated your thoughts though – so thanks guys! Y’all had some great ideas, especially you @KimD, haha… and a few of you brought up good questions on how she knew it wasn’t on purpose or whatever, which I was also courious about. Hopefully she gets her money back at some point!!

  25. Donna Thompson May 2, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    She should still bring him to Small Claims Court for the $600 and court costs in trying to collect on a debt. If he’s in another State, where a local Small Claims Court can’t assist her, she can try one of the TV court shows.

  26. Mike Collins May 3, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    Well it seems like the bank made her decision for her, but what if it was $1000 cash that she ended up with by mistake?? That would be a much trickier decision as she could easily get away with it. I wonder what people would do then.

  27. J. Money May 3, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    I think banks can undo and xfer stuff super easily – even if it was cash vs. check/etc. But I don’t want to find out the hard way! Haha…

  28. Heather May 11, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    I work for a bank as a manager and let me tell you… the errors do get caught and when the bank goes in to adjust the funds after you’ve spent the money, you are responsible for all the fees.

    I had a college student who received a direct deposit for approx $4,000 into her account last year right around tax time. Around the same time, she was scheduled to receive a refund back from her school. Her and her mom saw the deposit, waited two days, and then took the money out of the account. Two weeks later, the deposit was attempted to be withdrawn back out of her account from the same company who put it in the account (a tax service). Because the funds could not be withdrawn (the money wasn’t there anymore), she was charged a $35 fee. This is what caught their attention and they came in to see me. Upon investigation, I noticed that the direct deposit that originally came into the account clearly had a different customer’s name on it. When I questioned them as to why they took the funds out when it obviously wasn’t their deposit, the mom made up a story and insisted I call the bank’s fraud department. It turns out, calling the fraud department caused the bank to release the $4,000 back to the tax service and consequently, the girl ended up owing the bank the $4,000 they took and she had to agree to a payment plan to pay it all back.

    This wasn’t even a bank error. The tax service inverted the account numbers which happened to match this college girl’s account number. Mistakes happen and we’re all human.

    So don’t spend money that’s not yours. This isn’t Monopoly.

  29. J. Money May 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Haha… best last line ever ;) Thanks for sharing this with us – a great reminder to always pay attention and don’t take anything that’s not yours!


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