Imagine pressing ‘OK’ during an online banking session and finding out (perhaps much later) that you’ve sent your money to a complete stranger and you’re going to have a fight on your hands to get it back.
Amanda Miller thought she was paying her builder but when he told her a few weeks later that the money hadn’t arrived she discovered that she’d wrongly typed in two digits of the bank’s sort code and had handed over £500 to someone else’s account, who kept it.
BBC Watchdog’s recent programme (broadcast Wednesday 19 June 2013 at 8pm on BBC1) looked into the rights of someone who finds themselves in this position – sadly there’s not very much they can do without going to the Police. If the money ends up in someone else’s account then there’s no guarantee that the bank will be able to recover the money easily, particularly if the customer made the error. Even if the bank makes the error it’s still not that simple to fix and can take a lot of time as well as frustration for the customer.
As part of the programme Watchdog interviewed Sarah Wiseman, a PhD student at UCL who’s working on the CHI+MED project, about the ease with which we all make errors – particularly where typing in important numbers are concerned. There’s no ‘spell check’ option available for numbers either, as in most cases, any digit can be followed by any other.
You can see the segment about banking errors from 21 minutes and Sarah’s interview is just after 24 minutes – click to watch the programme on the BBC’s site. Note that this link may work for just a short time, some programmes are only available for a week after broadcast.
The £26,000 banking error The Guardian (9 February 2013)
“Sally lost two years’ pay after mis-typing a digit during an online transfer. Now she can’t get her missing money back.”
Other posts about Sarah Wiseman’s research.