Mistakes do happen when it comes to dealing will long numbers like a phone number or an even longer bank account number. While the mismatch could be made while re-entering the number, sometimes the error could be from the sender's end. For example, you purchase a second-hand car and the owner makes an error while handing out the account number to which you need to make a money transfer.
Unlike the older days, most of us do not go to the bank to get their money transfer done.
Net banking is the preferred medium and most banks have multiple steps while conducting a transfer through NEFT or RTGS to provide different levels of safety when you make a transfer to a new bank account number.
The first step being the part where you add the beneficiary. Here, apart from having to enter the bank account number twice, if it an account holder from the same bank (like in the case of HDFC Bank), the account holder's name as per bank records is also displayed. This is one way for you to verify that the bank account number was rightly entered.
However, if the receiver holds an account in a different bank, it gets tricky and you have to rely on the information you have.
In such cases, you could make a small transfer first and send the remainder on getting confirmation from the receiver.
The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) notification titled "Electronic payment products - Processing inward transactions based solely on account number information" explains that while "banks are generally expected to match the name and account number information of the beneficiary before affording credit to the account. In the Indian context, given the many different ways in which beneficiary names can be written, it becomes extremely challenging to perfectly match the name field contained in the electronic transfer instructions with the name on record in the books of the destination bank." Manual intervention will delay the processing time.
While utmost care is taken by the banks and the system to credit the bank accounts rightly to the intended account holder, "responsibility for accurate input and successful credit lies with the remitting customers and the originating banks. The role of destination banks is limited to affording credit to beneficiary's account based on details furnished by the remitter / originating bank."
In order to handle surging volumes in a limited time window, some banks use name matching software, while a few others employ a risk-based approach based on the nature and value of the transfer.
However, as per the rules, the ultimate responsibility of inputting the right account number lies with the customer.
What can you do when you transfer money to a wrong bank account number?
If the account number does not exist, your money will be credited back to you.
However, if the account number unfortunately exists, your bank and the receiver's bank will merely act as facilitators to contact the wrongly credited beneficiary.
The beneficiary now holds no obligation to send the money back to you, nor can the bank do it without their consent.
The first step when you send money to a wrong bank account is to write a formal letter (or email) to your bank's branch manager, immediately. Make sure the letter contains all the necessary details of the transaction including the time, the name of the beneficiary, account details, etc.
If it so happens that the name of the wrong beneficiary is same or similar to the person you intended to send it to, further proof of the identity of the customer will be required.
The bank will be able to contact the wrong credited account holder's branch for you and explain the situation.
You will have to follow up on the situation with your bank for speedy recovery.
While you can contact the beneficiary's branch yourself (you can find the branch location and phone number over Google using the IFSC code) for a follow-up, the request has to formally go through your bank's branch. Further, it is highly unlikely that the other branch will give away contact details of their customer.
Once the beneficiary is contacted by his/her branch and the branch receives consent to transfer the money back to you, it will do so. The transfer could take around 8 working days due to various formalities involved.
If the beneficiary refuses to return the money, you can file a legal case against them in court. However, this can be both time-consuming and expensive.
Hence, the decision to take the issue to court depends on the value of the amount involved as it should compensate for the time and money that will go into the legal proceedings.