Money not Deposited
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The complainant, a physiotherapist, received a call from her patient's father, stating that he had erroneously paid R25 000 into her account, instead of the R450 consulting fee. Seeing the funds reflected, the physiotherapist transferred the difference back to the father. The next day, he phoned, saying a further R25 000 had been paid to her in error.
Once again, she transferred the money back to him.
When it became apparent that the payments were made via stolen cheques, the complainant held that the bank was liable since she was not informed that she had a facility that allowed the proceeds of uncleared cheques to reflect. The bank was willing to refund 25% of the initial amount.
The adjudicator found that, although the amounts clearly showed as cheque deposits, the complainant had not contacted the bank to query the transactions and had not waited for the cheques to clear. Furthermore, the name of the depositor and the patient's father were inconsistent.
As the customer had been negligent, the OBS upheld the bank's offer of a 25% refund.
Lesson to be learnt
Sources of deposits should be verified and the clearance period should expire before withdrawing or transferring against uncleared funds.
Fraudsters usually deposit a stolen cheque into a business account to pay for bought goods. The amount is more than the value of the goods, so the fraudsters ask the business to refund the difference. After the refund, the cheque returns unpaid.
Fraudsters posing as investors told the complainant that they would invest funds in her business.
During negotiations, they obtained the personal and banking details as well as copies of three months' bank statements of the business owner. They persuaded the complainant to hand over her bank card and PIN so that they could check that the funds reflected in her bank account.
The fraudsters then paid and asked her to travel to Mozambique to discuss business ideas. Her travel expenses would be reimbursed.
When the complainant declined, they withdrew from the agreement and asked her to refund a portion of the money deposited in her bank account. The fraudsters accompanied her to the bank where she withdrew more than R360 000 in foreign currency and handed the cash over.
According to the businesswoman, the funds reflected as 'available'. However, a few days later, the account was overdrawn by R460 000 as both 'investment' cheques returned unpaid. The complainant wanted the bank to reverse the R460 000 debit as she thought the cheques were cleared.
The bank advised that the complainant was able to withdraw against the value of the cheque deposits as the account's U-status, which dictates the hold placed on cheque deposits, was uplifted earlier at her request.
To the OBS team, it appeared that the complainant was negligent in believing the misrepresentations and disclosing her personal and banking details, in spite of ongoing warnings from the banks.
The Ombudsman concluded that the bank was not liable for the complainant's loss as she had not acted with reasonable care. The bank was entitled to make the value of the cheque deposits available to the complainant pending the outcome of the cheque clearance process. The complainant was at liberty to contact the bank to confirm the status of the cheque deposits before accessing the funds and handing them over to the fraudsters, but she didn't do this.