Can you keep an accidental bank deposit?


Anna Baluch

Anna Baluch

Blog author Anna Baluch

Anna Baluch is a freelance personal finance writer who enjoys writing about personal finance topics including mortgages, retirement, insurance, and investing. Her work can be seen on LendingTree, Business Insider, Experian and other well-known publications. Anna lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing. You can contact her on LinkedIn.

Published January 7, 2020|1 min read

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Imagine checking your bank account and finding a deposit made by accident. You just won the lottery, right?

This scenario actually does happen. Banks deposit hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into bank accounts by mistake.

But can you keep the money? Unfortunately not. You can only keep deposits intended for you.

What to do if money ends up in your account by mistake

If you find an accidental deposit in your account, notify your bank right away. While it may be tempting to use the extra cash to pad your emergency fund or take a vacation, doing so can come back to haunt you.

Banks perform detailed audits on a regular basis, so it’s likely they’ll catch the mistake. Once they discover it, they’ll reverse the transaction, even if it puts you in the red.

If you keep the money in your bank account, or transfer it to another account to try to hide it, your bank could potentially file a police report against you.

This can lead to large fines and even jail time. To avoid legal issues and serious consequences, inform the bank as soon as you notice the error.

How to prevent problems with bank errors

Some bank errors are inevitable. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a bank error issue:

  • Manage your balance. Comb through your monthly statements. This will help you double check the bank’s figures and catch mistakes early on.

  • Pay attention to deposit slips. After you deposit a check at the bank, look at your deposit slip. Make sure it states the amount you intended to deposit. If it doesn’t, let the teller know.

  • Use mobile deposit when possible. If your bank offers mobile deposit, take advantage of this feature. It tends to be safer and less prone to human error.

  • Check your account regularly. This ensures all deposits are correct and helps you stay on top of your money.

Recent bank breaches offer some important lessons in fortifying you account — here’s how.

Image: Aaron Soller