Aussies losing $11m in fat-fingered net transfers

An estimated 7000 households are affected each year.

Accidentally typing in the wrong sum of money during an online bank transfer is costing Australians millions of dollars each year.

An investigation by The Daily Telegraph has concluded that Australians lose $11m a year in erroneous online banking transfers.

Little information is publicly available about mistaken bank transfers, leading to the figure being calculated using a limited set of data.

Freedom of information laws were used to obtain how much money was lost during an undisclosed three-month period in 2015.

The records revealed 6999 requests were lodged during the period to have $13m of payments sent in error returned.

This data was used to calculate a yearly average, suggesting 28,000 households made $52m worth of erroneous transfers.

The only comprehensive data set on mistaken internet transfers – from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) – suggests an estimated 25% of this money could not be retrieved.

Five-out-of-six times, the mistake made during an online banking transfer happens when the wrong account details are entered; an error referred to as 'fat-fingers' by members of the finance industry.

The sixth error has to do with people selecting the wrong payee; an error calculated to cost $2m in erroneous transfers.

Accidentally entering in the wrong account details is therefore believed to cost Australians $11m each year.

The Telegraph investigation suggests erroneous transfers could be curbed by requiring consumers to enter the details of a transfer twice, claiming the sentiment is echoed by unnamed consumer groups.

It was a recommendation made in the official ePayments code by financial regulator ASIC, and one successfully ignored by the big banks.

But a double entry system won't fix the problem, says Erin Turner, the head of campaigns at consumer group CHOICE.

"We all make mistakes sometimes, but the way to fix it isn't through a more onerous double-entry system."

She says more needs to be done to help customers recoup the money that is lost. "Consumers instead need more help and protections when something goes wrong."