How is it that I am resposible for a bank error when teller made mistake?

I went to bank to make a withdrawal. I gave the teller my driver’s license to pull up my acccount information. I asked for balance inquiry and account ID card. Then I received 2 account numbers, checking and savings. I was only aware of having a checking account so I believed the teller, after all she used my ID to get the info. I closed 1 checking account since I didn’t need 3. The bank now says those accounts were not mine and is asking for sum $7500 back. I do not have this money and cannot get it. I thought my husband set these accounts up before passing last summer.

Asked on June 1, 2012 under General Practice, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You are responsible because you took money that did not belong to you. If you did not have criminal intent when you did so--e.g. it was an honest mistake--you would not face criminal liability; but you still have to repay the money. This is no different than if you were in the airport and accidentally picked up the wrong person's look-alike bag from a luggage carousal, or were at a restaurant and valet parking accidently gave you the keys to someone else's car which was identical to yours--in neither case would you be allowed to keep the other person's property just because you took it innocently, by accident. Similarly, you took another person's money by accident; that accident, even if you personally did nothing wrong, gives you no right to keep that money; hence, you must repay it. You can't keep another person's property just because a third party handed it to you.

Since the bank did make a mistake, you might try to work out a payment plan with the bank--that is, they'll return the money to the other person (the lawful account holder) and you'll repay them over 2 - 4 years. At the end of the day, remember: the $7,500 was not yours, so you are not any worse off by having to return it than you would have been had the bank not made the mistake in the first place; the key thing is to come up with a plan which you can actually honor and live with.

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