Fat fingers and money transfers

3 min read
May 05, 2017

05/05/17 Technology is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

If you can still remember dial-up internet connections, fax machines and floppy discs (ask your parents kids), I’m sure you’ll be amazed by how quickly we’ve changed and adapted to smartphones, new tech and social media.

The way we shop and spend has also changed dramatically too. The number of cheques issued has dropped dramatically in the last few years (though there were still millions issued in 2016). And the faster payments rules introduced a few years ago now means you can pay money online, by phone or in person pretty much instantaneously.

New tech can make us careless.

Back in the old days, payments could take up to three working days to clear on the other person’s account. This was a bit of a nightmare, particularly if you were transferring money to a friend or family member who needed it urgently.

Nowadays, you can make a payment on your mobile, by ‘tapping’ your card or phone app against a receiver or by using a non-banking system to deal with instant payments for you.

All of this is great news for consumers – but it can make you careless.

In the last year, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of complaints I’ve seen about people tapping their cards to pay for things, only to find they’ve been debited a higher amount – and don’t have a receipt. I’ve spoken to a few sheepish stag and hen parties who’ve left their cards behind the bar abroad and been ripped off. But because they were careless with their pin numbers, they’ve lost the money (one stag party victim was stung for over £30,000 – gentlemen, be careful in bars of ill-repute abroad).

New tech can make us careless. Think how many people leave their cards behind bars across the land. Technically, if you do this you’ve let the card out of your sight so could be liable for losses). While others don’t shield their pin from prying eyes. In fact, shoulder surfing is the main source of pin theft – for fraudsters, you can’t beat the old tricks.

But the biggest problem we hear about is the ‘fat finger transfer’.

This is when you make a payment online or on your phone to another individual and get the number wrong. The line comes from The Simpsons (fat or thin fingers work equally badly) and is used to refer to any mistake you make when entering the account or sort code.

It comes as quite a surprise to many people to find out that banks don’t check account names – just the numbers. So when something goes wrong it can be hard to get your cash back. A new code of practice has been introduced that means participating banks will try to get your cash back within two days – but that’s no guarantee. In practice, if your money ends up in another person’s account and they claim you owed them the money, you might not get it back.

It’s easier than you think to make a mistake, even with setting up transfers to friends or businesses through your phone or through online banking. So make sure you always double check the number before you send money. And it makes sense to ask the recipient to confirm that they’ve received the cash. It’s easier to solve a problem if you spot it early.

Even though new tech brings loads of positive benefits, there’ll always be the human element. So don’t transfer money in a rush – and double check the numbers before you hit the confirmation button.

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