In an increasingly technological world, people not only strive to save time and money but also like to accomplish things more quickly and easily than ever. At the same time, these conveniences can lead to some disadvantages. With personal information so readily entered and circulated online, it can be compromised by security breaches. Below, we have the details of what someone else can do with your bank account number, and what you should do if someone else uses your account numbers.
What Can Someone Do With Your Bank Account Number?
Fortunately, people can’t do much if they only have your bank account number. They can’t, for example, withdraw money from your account using only the account number. However, with a little more obtainable information, such as your address or driver’s license number, someone with your account number may have the ability to manipulate and compromise your account. Below are a few examples of what they can do.
They can use your account number for online shopping if they also have your driver’s license information.
Bank accounts can be used to make purchases with some online retailers. One example of a well-known online retailer that accepts payment from your bank account (also known as ACH transactions) is Amazon. When checking out with this option, the user is prompted to enter a routing number and bank account number. Additionally, the name and address of the principal account holder are required, along with the driver’s license number.
For more details on how this payment by ACH works, see Amazon Help and Customer Service. To find out about other retailers with similar payment options, check out our article, Shopping Sites That Accept eChecks + Personal Checks.
They can withdraw money from your account if they also have your personal information.
If you happen to pay someone by check, all your pertinent information is printed right on the check. Someone with your check not only has your account and routing numbers, but also your name, address, and signature. All this information on your check can be used to withdraw money from your account. In extreme cases, this information can even be used in an attempt to reproduce your check and write in a different amount. Check reproduction qualifies as forgery and is considered a felony under federal law. (Luckily, banks usually have measures in place to detect these types of fraud and prevent them from processing.)
Another example of how a person can withdraw money from your account is by attempting to deposit your check more than once. With the rise of mobile deposits, there’s the risk that if you give someone a check, they may try to cash it again at a later time, either purposefully or unintentionally. With the hard copy still in possession, people might simply forget that they already deposited it on mobile. Banks usually have security mechanisms to catch these “double presentments,” but since there are many methods of deposits like mobile, ATM, and in-person, along with different financial institutions, communications can get easily jumbled and the possibility of losing money from your account is still there. You can read more about what happens if someone cashes or deposits the same check twice in our article, Penalty for Cashing a Check Twice: Banks Fees, Legal Claims, & More. Being proactive in monitoring your bank account activities can help you catch possible duplicate withdrawals.
Paying by check is still secure and accepted at many businesses. For people you might not trust or who aren’t affiliated with a business, though, paying with cash might be a slightly safer option.
They can deposit money into your account.
If someone has your bank account and routing numbers, they can deposit money into your account. Getting cash is usually considered a positive thing, but not knowing where it came from can present a problem, especially if it’s associated with illegal activity.
If someone attempts to make a deposit into your account in-person, a form of ID may be required, which may allow the money to be linked to the person who made the deposit. Take note, however, that each bank has its own policies regarding deposits. For example, the person might need to have an account with your bank in order to deposit in your name. Sometimes they’ll need to deposit into their account first, then transfer the money to your account.
What to Do If Someone Else Uses Your Account Number
If you’ve noticed 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. Legally, you’ll need to 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. With many banks, you can even 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.
What can someone do with a bank account number? With bank safeguards and policies in place, people generally can’t do much with just a bank account number and a routing number. However, in this day and age, a quick web search makes it easy to obtain other pieces of information such as a person’s address and phone number, which can then lead to potential problems. Best case scenario — someone can deposit money into your account. Worst case scenario — they can use your information to go online shopping. Practicing caution when paying with checks and when entering personal information on websites can help prevent headaches in the future.