Bank Account Fraud: What Can a Scammer Do With Your Bank Account and Routing Number?

By Sheryl Nance-Nash · March 31, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Bank Account Fraud: What Can a Scammer Do With Your Bank Account and Routing Number?

If you’re wondering, “What could a scammer do with my bank account details,” you have a good reason to worry. It may not be as secure as you’d hope.

You work hard for your money, and you don’t want anyone else accessing it without your permission! But fraud happens often; after all, scammers take no holidays. The best way to protect your bank account is knowledge plus a few proactive steps.

Here, we’ll look at what the risks are and what steps you can take to keep your accounts safe. Our goal is to minimize the odds of your bank account and routing numbers falling into the wrong hands and cheating you out of your money.

What Can Someone Do With Your Bank Account Number Alone?

Many of us wonder, “What can someone do with my bank account number?” We worry that our digits going public might be as bad as if your credit card number was leaked. The good news is, if someone only has your bank account number, that won’t give them enough intel to do any damage. Take comfort in knowing that no one will be able to withdraw money in your account if all they have is your account number.

That’s not to say nothing bad ever happens. If a scammer had your account number and other info — perhaps your driver’s license number and/or your home address — they might be able to make illegal purchases online. So don’t relax and think you shouldn’t be guarded with your bank account number.

It’s worthwhile to check your account as frequently as needed for you to sleep soundly at night. Routinely monitoring your account activity — say, once a week — is a smart move that allows you to quickly detect if anything is awry.

What Can Someone Do With Your Bank Account and Routing Number?

The short answer: Real damage! The combination of a bank account and a routing number is a dynamic duo that scammers thirst over. There’s a difference between these numbers but put them together in the wrong hands, and a mastermind of mischief can cause some financial mayhem. Just think about how often these numbers get circulated: every time a check is written, cashed, signed over to someone else!

So get set for some scary truths about what someone can do with your bank and routing numbers.

Recommended: Routing Number vs. Account Number: What’s the Difference?

ACH Fraud

With those precious numbers, crooks could commit fraudulent ACH (which stands for automated clearing house) transfers and payments. You’re probably used to seeing those ACH letters on your banking details when you set up automatic monthly payments and the like. When a scammer has your bank account and routing numbers, they could set up bill payments for services you’re not using or transfer money out of your bank account.

It’s tough to protect these details because your account number and routing number are hiding in plain sight at the bottom of your checks. But do your best. Some pointers: Don’t leave your checkbook lying around, obviously, and if you are mailing a check, wrap it in a sheet of blank paper so the number doesn’t show through a thin envelope for all the world to see as it’s in transit. Checks do present a risk factor, which is all the more reason to pay attention to bank statements often to see if there are any fishy transactions happening.

One of the best ways to protect yourself when online banking is to be sure your passwords and login names are strong. That password is a primary defense. If a thief has your bank and routing numbers and somehow manages to get access to your login name and password, big trouble may be on the horizon. You know the drill on this one: Don’t make your password something obvious like your name, pass1234, or numbers that may be circulating in cyberspace, like your birthday which can be seen on Facebook.

Online Shopping

Be careful where you shop. All online retailers aren’t equal. Some retailers will allow you to make a purchase with bank account information alone, while others will also ask for a driver’s license or other state identification if you are using a bank account. If someone has your bank account and routing numbers, they can find sites that let them shop and could run up a tab.

Depositing Money

While it may seem like a dream come true that a mysterious sum of money appears in your bank account, be more alarmed than overjoyed. Somebody may be using you to facilitate their illegal shenanigans (also known as money laundering).

Create Fraudulent Checks

Scammers can create fake checks using your checking numbers. They could have themselves a good time ponying up those fake checks to pay for stuff or simply cashing them. Know too that with technology they could digitally scan the check and deposit the amount into their bank account. All of which are lose-lose situations for you, sadly.

What to Do When Someone Has Your Account Number

As careful as you try to be, stuff happens. What’s next if someone gets a hold of your bank account number? What if you see signs that they are using it for fraudulent transactions? Knowing what to do can help mitigate a bad situation. Have a strategy in place, just in case. Here’s some advice.

Contact Relevant Agencies

If you have the misfortune of being victimized, contact your bank the minute you realize it. Whether your checkbook was stolen or there’s been a data breach at a retailer who has that info stored, understand that the clock is ticking. You need to notify your bank within 60 days of your statement to avoid paying for unauthorized ACH transactions. The bank’s fraud department will be your new best friend as they will work diligently to help you get unauthorized charges reversed.

The bank is just your first call. Report the fraud to the fraud department of all three credit reporting agencies, Equifax , Experian , and TransUnion . File a report with your local police department, and the Federal Trade Commission’s department that deals with identity theft.

Your to-do list doesn’t end there. You’ll want to be a stickler about monitoring your bank account to look for any signs that someone else is abusing your account. Be proactive and ask your bank about setting up text messages or push notifications every time a transaction is posted. This will help you keep track of what’s going on with your money.

Much as you may not be a paper person, when you’re a victim of bank fraud, documentation matters. You want copies of bank statements, a copy of the police report, your credit report, and any other relevant materials.

Cancel Your Account

As much as it’s a hassle, you need to get a new account number to replace the compromised one. Call your bank’s customer service number or, if you use a bricks-and-mortar bank, go to your local branch. Explain your situation, and take steps to get your assets transferred to a new bank account, get new checks printed, and get a new debit if needed to safeguard your moolah.

Tips on Avoiding Bank Fraud

There are no absolutes in life, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself as much as possible. You can get an identity theft protection service to monitor your bank accounts and alert you to any funny business, be it suspicious withdrawals or information changes.

Secondly, when shopping online, use a credit card (it offers more protection than say a debit card), prepaid card, or a money transfer app instead of typing in your account and routing numbers. Be stingy with your banking information to avoid bank scams. Know that less is best when it comes to sharing info: Avoid giving your account and routing numbers to people you don’t know.

Another tip to prevent fraud: Go for multi-factor authentication when banking online. If you have linked bank accounts and credit or debit cards to online platforms, absolutely sign up for additional verification in order for purchases to go through. It’s like a forcefield around your account.

Lastly, paper is so yesterday. Limit your use of paper checks to only those things where an alternate form of payment is a hassle. Remember your checks are a gold mine of personal information, with your address, account and routing numbers.

The Takeaway

In today’s world, it pays to keep close tabs on your bank accounts. Just having your bank account number or a routing number in the public domain isn’t the end of the world. But both of them? That’s an uh-oh. There are all kinds of ways that scammers can do damage if they get hold of both your account and routing numbers. By protecting these digits and setting up other safeguards, you’ll minimize the odds of your falling victim to these wily thieves.

Let SoFi Take Great Care of Your Money

We’ve been looking at some of the darker aspects of banking, like fraud, scams, and so forth. Let’s look on the bright side now! With SoFi Checking and Savings, we make sure you and your money are treated with TLC. Set up direct deposit, and you’ll earn 1.25% APY, which is 33x the current national average checking rate. And, not to brag, but we don’t charge any monthly or minimum-balance fees, which helps your money grow faster.

Come try better banking with SoFi.

FAQ

Which bank details should I keep secret?

Protect your bank account and routing numbers to avoid having scammers siphon money away from you. Setting up two-factor authentication for online transactions can help protect you, too. It goes without saying (almost!) that no one except you should know your username, password, and security questions. Another area where mum’s the word: Records of your financial transactions. Shred documents as needed.

Is it safe to give out your account details?

Share your banking information sparingly, especially online. At best, share a few key points with a trusted friend or family member, and only punch your details into secure websites (look for the “https” at the beginning of the url) — though even those aren’t 100% scamproof.

Can I give out my routing number?

A bank routing number in and of itself has little threat to your financial security. Afterall, it’s a nine-digit code used by financial institutions to identify other financial institutions. It’s very much public information.

Can someone steal your money with your bank account number?

Typically, more than just a bank account number is needed to steal your money, but as we just mentioned, routing numbers are easily found. With those two pieces of information, a crook could use those numbers on some websites to purchase goods or otherwise defraud you.

Can someone withdraw money with an account number and sort code?

Sort codes are six-digit banking numbers commonly used in the UK. Along with an account number, they can be used to set up direct debits from your account, usually only by trusted organizations. However, there is always a risk of a scammer infiltrating the best protections, so it’s wise to keep an eye on your bank account.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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