If you spend money that you know is not yours, even if it is deposited into your bank account, it is theft.
This is according to consumer journalist Wendy Knowler, writing for Times Live.
Knowler was referencing a recent case where university student Sibongile Mani was mistakenly sent R14.1 million by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Mani spent close to R1 million of the money over several months, buying gifts for her friends and herself.
“If you spend money that you know is not yours, you are committing theft. That’s not a moral judgment on my part, it’s the law,” said Knowler.
In “Nissan SA vs Marnitz and others, 2004”, Knowler said the Supreme Court of Appeal found that “when money is mistakenly transferred into the wrong bank account, the account holder is not entitled to that money and, should they spend it, that constitutes theft”.
Should you accidently send money to the wrong bank account, however, getting it back is not an easy task.
Knowler said a bank cannot remove funds from a client’s account without their permission, and the sender will have to pursue legal action to reclaim their money.
The report stated this can take between 6 months and 2 years, with court action often required for large sums of money.