If someone has your bank account number alone, they can’t do much with it. However, in combination with other information — such as your routing number, name, address, and driver’s license number — someone could make fraudulent ACH payments, purchases, or deposits using your account. We explain these risks in greater detail below, plus what to do if someone uses your bank account information.
What Can Someone Do With Your Bank Account Number?
Someone can’t withdraw money from your account using only the account number. However, with more personal information, such as your bank’s routing number, your address, or your driver’s license number, someone with your account number may be able to manipulate or compromise your account in several ways. We discuss these risks below.
ACH payments can be set up using your name, your account number, and your bank’s routing number, so if someone has your name and both of those numbers, it’s possible for them to set up one-time or recurring payments from your account.
Any time you use a check, you give someone access to both of these numbers; previous ACH payments you’ve made online can also put your information at risk. In severe cases, check information can be used in an attempt to reproduce checks under your name. Check reproduction is a form of check fraud/forgery and often qualifies as a felony.
Some online retailers accept bank account information as a form of payment — for example, Amazon. For an additional layer of security, Amazon requires your driver’s license or state ID number when paying this way, but some stores only require your name, account number, and routing number (as previously reported). Similar to ACH fraud, someone can use your checking account information to shop if they have all of the details required by the online store.
If someone has your bank account and routing numbers, they can deposit money into your account. Getting cash is usually considered a positive thing — like direct deposits of your paychecks — but not knowing where the money came from can present a problem, especially if it’s associated with illegal activity.
What to Do If Someone Else Uses Your Account Number
If you notice an unauthorized transaction on your bank statement or know that someone has used your bank account number, there are a few steps to take to protect yourself. First, you should contact your bank as soon as possible. You should notify your bank within 60 days of your statement to avoid paying for any unauthorized ACH transactions. Your bank’s fraud department can help you get unauthorized charges reversed and help you avoid identity theft issues in the future.
You should also contact several agencies to report the fraud:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov
- The fraud departments of credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- The U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Section
- Your local police department, to file a report
In addition to contacting these agencies, keep a close watch on your bank account through the online portal or mobile app. This will help you catch any new, suspicious charges that pop up. Many banks allow you to set up text messages or push notifications each time a transaction is posted. By making a habit of checking your recent bank account activities, you can spot any future suspicious transactions quicker, which will lead to faster resolutions.
Be sure to carefully document everything that you can when dealing with bank fraud. Keep copies of your statements, print your activity as shown online, get a copy of your police report, and request a copy of your credit report.