It’s hard to imagine a world without the internet, isn’t it?! But much as the web has made life easier for us all, it’s also a twilight world of conspiracy theories and outright mistruths.

I’m often asked about financial urban myths: things we hear or read about that sound feasible that simply aren’t true.

Here’s my guide to what’s real… and what isn’t.

If money gets paid in to my account in error, I can keep it

No is the simple answer. Sorry to disappoint you all, but there really is no thing as free money. In fact, legally, you’re obliged to pay it back.

Of all the finance urban myths, this is the one people cling on to the hardest. I’m often told how wrong I am about this in rather blunt terms, by people affected. Sadly, I’m 100% right on this one. If the bank or a business overpays in to your account you have to return the cash – even if months have passed since the error.

Having said that, you didn’t make the initial error. So if you have spent some or all of the cash ‘accidentally’ then you can expect your bank or card provider to come up with an affordable repayment plan, ideally without interest. This shouldn’t damage your credit file either. On occasion, you might be able to demonstrate that you were expecting a lump sum payment like an inheritance and assumed the deposit made in error was that sum. This might – might – result in some of the cash you’ve spent being waved, but this is very, very rare.

If a cash machine pays out in error, I can keep the cash

See above! They will find you too.

My partner’s bad credit will affect me too

According to my fellow TV expert and Experian credit reference specialist, James Jones, being in a relationship doesn’t mean your credit report, or finances, are linked. The only way to link your credit reports is if you’ve applied for joint credit together in the past, for example for a bank account, loan or mortgage.

If you have previously taken out credit with someone but don’t share any joint accounts now, you can ask for a ‘’financial disassociation with all three credit reference agencies. However, joint credit accounts can leave you liable for debts as an individual if you fall out with your partner. The other person could also clear out your savings too, so make sure you understand the repercussions before signing up.

If I have opinions that aren’t ‘woke’, my bank can shut my account

Fear not, your opinions and views are safe (as long as you aren’t advocating anything illegal!) Having said that, banks are commercial entities – and that means they don’t have to take on your business or keep you as a customer if they don’t want to. Nor can they be compelled to do so give you a reason why they don’t want you.

Last year, some politicians raised concerns that they had been labelled ‘politically exposed people’ (PEPs) and therefore represented too great a risk for some banks. While PEPs are ‘a thing’ this isn’t quite what it seems.

The Money Laundering Regulations describe PEPs as posing a significantly higher risk of money laundering, because of their position and security clearances, NOT because of their views. However, as we’ve seen, on rare occasions banks go rogue and refuse banking services because they’re worried about the impact of someone’s views on their brand.

If you do feel your account has been closed unfairly, then make a complaint. If they’ve not followed the rules, then the Financial Ombudsman may consider looking at the case.

My insurer can’t charge me more if I don’t make a claim for damage

As many people have found to their cost, if a significant incident occurs, like your car being rammed, you need to tell your insurer even if it’s not your fault. This is known as a ‘claimable incident’ and if they find out, they can charge you more of invalidate your policy.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.

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