A DOG groomer who applied for a £5,000 coronavirus grant had £240,000 put in her bank in a mix-up.
Amy Osborne, 22, was stunned when her bank balance swelled after she applied for support from the government during lockdown.
She had only just launched Dog Grooming by Amy and knew there was mistake when she saw £3,000 and then £237,000 deposited into her account.
The £240,000 grant was actually meant for a school in the city.
Amy said: "When I saw that money, I felt physically sick. I 100 per cent knew it wasn't mine because I had only been a dog groomer for a couple of weeks.
"The day the money went into my bank, I went to them straight away and they said they can't send the money back unless the council request it because it was such a large amount. It's almost a quarter of a million pounds that the council paid me by mistake."
Amy, from Stoke, immediately tried contacting her local council but said she wasn't able to get ahold of anyone.
When the business owner did get get through, Amy says she was threatened with action despite having done nothing wrong.
She also had to pay £35 to send the money back and has yet to receive a refund.
The city council has since apologised and carried out a review to ensure a mix-up like this doesn't happen again.
Amy looked for financial help after Boris Johnson plunged the UK into lockdown in March.
She applied for the £5,000 grant for small businesses.
They made the mistake but then tried to pin it on me.Amy
Amy said: "It was a few weeks after that I received £3,000 in my account. I thought the money was part of my £5,000 grant so I never questioned it as I was told it would just be sent over.
"Then last month I received £237,000 and then realised there had been errors made. The council didn't even realise they had made the mistake and they didn't contact me.
"I eventually found someone to contact and she told me the £3,000 shouldn't have been mine either and they wanted it all back.
"With all the money, you get sent a receipt before you get the money to say it was yours. I was sent a remittance with details about the £237,000. I thought it was a scam so I just ignored it.
"I received the breakdown of who they were paying it to and it's for a school."
Amy correctly received her £5,000 grant on June 12 before being wrongly sent the £3,000 on June 17 and the £237,000 on July 22.
She spent hours trying to get through to the council with no joy.
Amy finally got through to someone and they had been trying to contact her, but they were ringing the wrong number.
She said they then threatened court action against her.
Amy is now demanding an apology and compensation.
Amy said: “The woman I first spoke with said she had been trying to contact me and I had been ignoring my phone. It turned out that the number she was ringing me on was wrong too.
“I said ‘how can you send me that much money and not have the correct email address and phone number?’
"Then she said they will start court proceedings on me, she was vile.
"She said ‘you need to go to the bank right now and send the money or we are starting court proceedings because this is fraud’.
"She was just going at me. They made the mistake but then tried to pin it on me.
“I haven't got the money back that it cost me to send them, they said they would refund me the days I missed at work which is £600 for the two days.
“I was previously on Universal Credit and I lost that, I lost everything. The council said I would be refunded the lot but they haven't come to me.”
What should you do if you get money in a banking error?
It is illegal to keep any money accidentally paid into your bank or savings account.
Under the Theft Act 1968 you could be charged with retaining wrongful credit if you keep the money.
It can result in up to 10 years in prison.
You could be found guilty of the offence if you know the credit has been made incorrectly and you don’t stake steps to cancel the credit.
If you do receive money by accident you should contact your bank and/or your employer immediately.
Do not go out and spend it because you are liable for the funds once they are gone
Amy - who also successfully received a discretionary £3,000 grant on August 12 - added: “They have taken advantage of me because they know I am young.
“I would like an apology and compensation for what has happened. I’ve tried to get that myself and they haven’t listened to me.”
City council leader Abi Brown said: “Unfortunately we made two payments in error to Ms Osborne, and for this we fully apologise for any inconvenience caused.
"We are very grateful for her co-operation in helping to resolve this quickly, and the money has now been fully recovered and allocated correctly. We have reviewed the error to ensure it does not happen again.
“We have worked quickly in response to the coronavirus pandemic to allocate discretionary grants to as many eligible small businesses as possible.
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"Our aim has been to help businesses at this most testing of times, and we’re pleased to say that we have been able to allocate two grants to Ms Osborne.
“We have allocated a total of £2.8m in discretionary grants to 342 small businesses across the city, and our teams have worked to support businesses in their applications, review documents that have been submitted and make the payments as quickly as possible.
"Small businesses like Ms Osborne’s play such an important role in our city and we continue to work hard to support businesses as our economy recovers from the outbreak.”