Poor eyesight can be a nightmare, and for one mom, it almost cost her her daughter’s education.
According to Apple Daily, a 49-year-old woman surnamed Wong had HK$40,000 (US$5,100) returned to her two months after she — unable to make out the buttons on an ATM — accidentally put the money into the wrong bank account.
The incident began on May 18 when Wong went to a Bank of China ATM on the Kwai Shing East estate in Kwai Tsing district to deposit the money into her daughter’s account.
Wong’s daughter is studying in Beijing, and the money was to cover her tuition and living expenses.
But as Wong was inputting the 14-digit account number, bad eyesight caused her to switch two of the digits near the end of the account number, and the ATM took her to another screen asking her to confirm if the name on the screen was correct.
For security reasons, when transferring money using an ATM in Hong Kong, only some of the letters in the account holder’s names are visible while the other letters are replaced with asterisks.
“The monitor of the ATM was blurry and the queue was becoming longer and longer. I was hesitating, and at the same time I had already pressed the confirm button,” she told the Chinese-language paper.
Wong realized the problem after she read the receipt, which showed not the name of her daughter, but that of a complete stranger. She then rushed to a Bank of China branch near the estate and told them what happened.
The staff member asked her to fill in some forms, told Wong that money was already in the other person’s account, and that the bank would need the account holder’s consent before she can get the money back.
Wong also tried calling the police for help three times, Apple Daily reported, but officers said they could not intervene and should turn to the bank for help.
Wong works part-time at a restaurant, while her husband works as a warehouse clerk. The couple earn just under HK$20,000 (US$2,500) a month between them, meaning saving the HK$40,000 had been an exercise in frugality.
“I worked really hard for that money to pay for my daughter’s tuition fees, and it’s now in someone else’s account and I can’t get it back,” she was quoted as saying.
Wong however did get her money back, but only after Apple Daily reporters door-stepped the account holders – surnamed Lee – after tracking down the exact address. Based on the newspaper’s video report, the Lees did not seem too happy about the visit; they told the reporters to wait in the lobby for 10 minutes, and then called the police to say they were causing a disturbance.
Wong’s mistake is apparently not as uncommon as you’d think. A spokesperson from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) told the newspaper that they had received 11 reports of individuals paying money into the wrong account in mishaps similar to Wong’s
The HKMA said they will be consulting with the banking industry on how to prevent similar incidents in future.