You might find yourself in a situation where you need to give your bank account number to someone. You might hesitate because isn’t it dangerous to give that number out?
It is generally safe to give someone your bank account number to deposit money. An employer or family member might need the number to deposit money into your account. If people have other key pieces of information like your social security number, then it could be dangerous.
It ultimately depends on the person’s intentions and how they handle your information. If it gets into the wrong hands, that’s when it becomes a problem. Let’s take a look at some basic banking safety information.
People Who Might Ask for Your Bank Account Number
It’s not advised to give out your bank account number to just anyone because if it lands in the wrong hands, they could start withdrawing money from your bank account. Never give out this information to someone you don’t trust.
People who might ask for this number include the following:
- Your employer – to set up direct deposit
- Tax filing service or employee – to help you file your taxes
- Written check recipient – they won’t really ask, but the number comes on the check
- Online payment service – PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, etc. will need the number to deposit funds into your account
These are generally safe sources you can give your bank account number to. However, you will need to use your judgment. If you have any doubts about the person who is requesting your bank account number or who you’re writing a check to, ask the following questions:
- Why do you need my bank account number?
- How will you store my information?
- Who will have access to this information?
Asking these questions might create some awkwardness, but you need to know if your information is safe. They’re especially important to ask if you’re also required to give them your social security number, address, or driver’s license number.
Your Account Can’t Be Accessed by Your Account Number Alone
Your bank account number alone isn’t enough information to get into your account with, thankfully. They can deposit money with it, but they won’t get much further than that without other pieces of identifying information. So, you can give your bank account number out, but again, you should only give it to someone you trust to avoid compromising situations.
Any information that allows you to log into your bank account or verify that it’s you who’s using the account can be used by someone else to access your money.
Some online shops allow ACH (Automated Clearing House) payments. This is a way to transfer money from one bank account to another. It’s sometimes used to pay bills since you can set up automatic monthly payments. So, instead of paying your landlord or electric company with a check each month, you can establish automatic ACH transactions each month. It’s easy and you only have to hand over your bank information once.
Online shops like Amazon require a driver’s license number to set up ACH payments. If someone has your bank account number and driver’s license, they can set up this payment method to use your account to pay for items they want to buy. They might also need your name and address, but it’s quite possible to start taking money with just your driver’s license.
Your name, address, signature, and social security number are key pieces of vital information that will allow someone to access your bank account. Every time you write a check to someone, 3 out of 4 of these things become available to the person you’re writing a check to, along with your bank account number and routing number.
Is it even safe to write a check with all of that personal information available? Yes, but there’s always a risk involved. When you write someone a check, you’re assuming that they’ll take the check straight to the bank and won’t lose it or give it to anyone else.
Once someone has all this information, they can withdraw from your account or even create fake checks, but banks are pretty smart and can usually detect when a fake check is being deposited.
If you have to pay someone that you don’t necessarily trust with a check, paying with cash is a safer option.
Money can be deposited into your account if you give someone a routing number. This is probably what you’re after if you give this information to PayPal, your employer, or a family member.
If someone steals this information, they can use your bank account to deposit money received via illegal activity, which could potentially cause problems for you.
Getting money deposited into your account is usually safe if that’s all the person is doing. Depending on the policies your bank uses, the person depositing money might have to have an account with that bank or present an ID when depositing money. So, it’s usually safe for someone to deposit money.
What to Do if Someone Is Using Your Account Number
If someone is using your account number without your authorization, be sure to do the following steps:
- Contact your bank immediately – Their fraud department will help you.
- Contact fraud agencies – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), US Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, and fraud departments of credit report agencies (like Equifax) should all be alerted.
- File a police report – Ask for a copy to keep for your records.
- Watch your bank account activity – Keep track of which transactions are yours and which ones are not.
How to Transfer Money Safely to Friends and Family
Just because there’s a risk when giving out your bank account number doesn’t mean you can’t transfer money to friends and family. Remember, if you only give your information to people you trust, you’re less likely to run into a problem. Even so, here are some safe ways to transfer money to and from your friends:
- Electronic transfer services – Apps like PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle are safe ways to send money to friends and family. All you need is an email address or phone number. Never send money to a number or email you don’t recognize, and be sure to triple check that you’ve typed it correctly before you hit send. You can now send money from iPhone to iPhone with iMessage, which is another safe way to transfer money.
- Bank account number – It’s safe as long as the person is trusted.
- Wire transfer – This is a bank-to-bank process similar to ACHs. The difference is that the transaction is handled by the bank instead of by clearinghouses.
- Personal or cashier’s check – Your bank can send a check to your friend or family member. The sender might have to pay a fee and the recipient might not be able to receive money right away. It depends on the bank.
Giving someone your bank account number is typically safe. There’s always a risk when handing out this number, so only give it to people you trust completely. If you don’t trust the person that’s asking for the number, try to pay cash instead of giving them the number. Checks have your bank account and routing numbers along with your address and signature, all of which are pieces of information that can be used to access your bank account.
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