Someone Transferred Me Money by Mistake and Asking For It Back. Is It a Scam?

Dolores Quintana

What would you do if a sudden deposit of cash from out of nowhere appeared in your bank account? It's a great question, given the many scams in the world and a genuine concern. A user named Alex
told their tale of confusion and asked for advice on a preeminent internet forum.

Alex explained, “I just received and had an e-transfer auto-deposited into my bank account, and now someone claiming to have sent it is asking me to return it. I don't plan on keeping it; I want to ensure it's legit before sending it back.”

Alex was concerned. While having more money in the bank is excellent, having money arrive in your account from a mysterious source is unnerving. But what could be done?

Among the comments was one thread that details how the scam works. This person explained the con in detail. While it seems odd, there is a reason why scammers choose this method.

The Scam

How does the scam work? First, three people are part of this fraud, the scammer, an unrelated victim, and you. The scammer hacks into the victim's account, sends an e-transfer to you using the victim's bank account, and then messages you saying, “I sent an e-transfer to the wrong number; please send it back.

The con artist usually relates a sob story to manipulate you into feeling bad for their plight. Then, the scammer will provide you with an email address or phone number; naturally, you will return the money to them.

The victim notices cash in their bank account and contacts their bank. The bank will investigate and reverse the e-transfer because it was unauthorized. The scammer will transfer the money that the bank returns to another account, and boom, they have your money on top of the original amount.

The victim gets their money back from the bank, and you are now the new victim. How did the people respond to this information?

Talk to the Bank

A few proposed the possibility that it might be an innocent mistake. The most popular response said, “Some rando sends money to your email address and now wants it back? Talk to the bank.”

Another response urged Alex to go to their bank and let them know because the person had personal experience as a bank employee where they witnessed people having their bank accounts frozen indefinitely.

Not having access to your bank accounts because of something a scammer did is a nightmare. This conversation led to another declaring they had multiple bank accounts because of this possibility.

They admitted that it made them seem slightly paranoid, but that didn't bother them. On the contrary, having other bank accounts in reserve made them feel much more secure. Several other people on the thread agreed heartily and owned up to possessing four bank accounts each.

A Common Hustle

The overwhelming opinion of the other users was that this was almost certainly a scam, as it was one that swindlers would try to pull off constantly. It relies on the naivete of people and the fact that most people believe what others say and don't double-check stories that people tell them.

Is the System To Blame?

The INTERAC System is a program that facilitates bank e-transfers. Some commenters felt that it enables this persistent fraud. Initially, a passcode was necessary to transfer money through the system. One admitted they thought the passcode prevented errors and created a barrier against rackets like these. 

Another issue is that e-transfer notifications don't give people enough information to weed out potential errors and schemes. When a person expressed doubt that this was the case, an astute commenter urged them to have a relative send them an e-transfer to check it out for themselves as a test.

They explained, “Even in online banking, there's no information regarding where the e-transfer came from beside the sender's name. It's because of these holes in the system can the scammers exploit and profit from.”

This thread inspired this article.

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